Monday, October 25, 2010

Racial Differences in the Concept of Beauty

Are average composite faces the most attractive faces or are highly attractive faces markedly different from average faces? Rhee & Lee (2010) agrees with Perrett & Yoshikawa (1994) that the most attractive face is actually the average of attractive faces and that an average face; while attractive, is not the most attractive.

They also argue that previous concepts of beauty such as the divine proportion (golden ratio) are not a good measure of beauty across different races and should not be used as an overarching universal indicator of beauty. Between different races, there appears to be different characteristics that are deemed beautiful. They merged some of the most attractive female faces of African, Caucasian, Chinese and Japanese people respectively, to create the images below.

They also mentioned some of the defining characteristics of beauty for the different races.
  • African: Narrow nose, smaller and more acute eyes, smaller upper lip, slender chin compared to the average African face.
  • Caucasian: Somewhat masculine, narrow palpebral (eyelids) height, angulated and squared mandible (lower jaw), protruding cheek and fuller lips compared to the average Caucasian face.
  • Chinese: Narrow cheek, slim and thin face, lantern jaw.
  • Japanese: relatively longer face, slightly slanted eyes, sharp chin and chubby cheeks.

Unfortunately, they did not conduct any experimental study to compare attractiveness ratings of such faces versus other faces that are considered beautiful based on traditional morphometrics. It would also have been interesting to look at how the male composite faces would look like.
Rhee SC, & Lee SH (2010). Attractive Composite Faces of Different Races. Aesthetic plastic surgery PMID: 20953953
Perrett DI, May KA, & Yoshikawa S (1994). Facial shape and judgements of female attractiveness. Nature, 368 (6468), 239-42 PMID: 8145822


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