Why do we find symmetrical faces attractive?

The Mysterious Allure of Facial Symmetry

by Leah P., social media intern

Rolene Strauss, named Miss World in December 2014, has a strikingly symmetrical face.

Rolene Strauss, named Miss World in December 2014, has a strikingly symmetrical face.

Matt Bomer, an actor named to People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive list, possesses highly symmetrical facial features.

Matt Bomer, an actor named to People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive list, possesses highly symmetrical facial features.

Why is facial symmetry so attractive?

While there is no such thing as a perfectly symmetrical face, some people, such as Miss World Rolene Strauss and screen actor Matt Bomer, pictured above, come quite close to approaching this ideal. Strauss was named Miss World in December 2014, while People Magazine considers Bomer the third Sexiest Man Alive. There is no doubt that these two are attractive. The question is: what makes them so beautiful? One theory is that a symmetrical face can effect our perception of beauty.

Better genes?

Facial symmetry has historically been prized as a marketable trait in mate selection because it is thought to be associated with superior genetic makeup and developmental stability. A person with a symmetrical face is thus considered healthier than a person with an asymmetrical face. Although recent research has debunked the link between health and facial symmetry, the lay perception of symmetrical features as a marker of evolutionary superiority has persisted.

Better personality?

Genetics aside, some have postulated that we tend to prefer symmetrical faces because facial symmetry is perceived to be an indicator of openness, conscientiousness, extroversion and agreeableness-- personality qualities that we often find attractive! According to psychologists, these qualities are rated as four of the "big five" personality traits.

What about attractive people with asymmetrical faces?

Despite the attention lavished on the classically beautiful, symmetrical faces are not the only ones considered attractive by society at large. Celebrities with asymmetrical faces like Paris Hilton and Ryan Gosling have been equally praised for their good looks. Our brains often correlate symmetry with simplicity because symmetrical images are often easier to understand. Asymmetry thus presents a complexity that some hypothesize is intriguing to our brains. For this reason, the phenomenon of an asymmetrical face can be mesmerizing and desirable, as well.

Modern beauty is highly variable. There is no fixed definition of beauty, and what you find attractive is not solely determined by symmetry. Physical beauty shifts with perspective because no one facial trait is universally preferable; to be sure, if that were the case, evolution would ensure that we all looked the same! So embrace all the different beautiful faces you come across-- including yours!; without them life would be monotonous.