Many of us have had the experience of disagreeing with friends or family about which celebrity is more attractive. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology show in a study of twins that those differences of opinion are mostly the result of personal experiences that are unique to each individual. In other words, even identical twins don't agree. Still, some aspects of attractiveness are pretty universal and may even be coded into our genes, the researchers say. For example, people tend to prefer symmetrical faces. Beyond such limited shared preferences, however, people really do have different "types."
"We estimate that an individual's aesthetic preferences for faces agree about 50 percent, and disagree about 50 percent, with others," according to joint leaders of this project, Laura Germine of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University and Jeremy Wilmer of Wellesley College. "This fits with the common intuition that on the one hand, fashion models can make a fortune with their good looks, while on the other hand, friends can endlessly debate about who is attractive and who is not."
Germine and Wilmer say that past research on the way people respond to faces has focused primarily on universal features of attraction. In the new study, however, they and their colleagues wanted to know more about where those disagreements over facial attractiveness come from.
To tackle this question, the researchers first studied the face preferences of over 35,000 volunteers who visited their science website www.TestMyBrain.org they used the insights gained to develop a highly efficient and effective test of the uniqueness of an individual's face preferences. They then tested the preferences of 547 pairs of identical twin and 214 pairs of same-sex, non-identical twins by having them rate the attractiveness of 200 faces.
Comparisons between identical and non-identical twins allowed the researchers to estimate the relative contribution of genes and environments to face preferences.
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