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Psychology| Symmetry

It’s Valentine’s Day on Friday which has become part of the human mating ritual. People will send cards, buy gifts and have dinner with people they are attracted to. What makes people attractive though? Research suggests it’s symmetry.

Symmetry is found everywhere in nature. Nature tend to make leaves very symmetrical, they are more or less the same on each side. Not always though, a leaf can be attacked by bacteria or a parasite as it forms and becomes asymmetrical. Chemicals or radiation can damage it’s genetics and make it asymmetrical. Similarly animals can be affected in the womb and and so people who look symmetrical appear to have better genetics and are more desirable mates.

Hormones also affect how we look. The male hormone testosterone can make men appear stronger and can also affect facial features so they develop a stronger jaw. Women tend to be affected by female hormones, oestrogen gives women more female facial features. 

Women can also enhance their facial features with make-up, using lipstick to make lips seem fuller and eye liner to make their eyes appear larger. Even posture can make dominant features appear more dominant. Women will tend to tilt their head forward when attracted to a male, the male will stand straight and tilt the head slightly back.

The symmetry of the whole body is important, but facial symmetry is the most important in mating. Facial symmetry is quite boring, the less interesting a face is, the more attractive it can seem. Even hair styles can be important. Bald men are considered attractive by some women. Is it the symmetry? Symmetrical hair styles have been fashionable in the past and seem very successful. Are symmetrical hair styles more attractive?

There are other visual cues to attractiveness. Dilated pupils make us appear more  attractive too and so having dinner by candlelight would make a prospective mate appear more desirable. Candlelight or the light from a log fire also gives us a healthy glow.

Anything that can make us appear more attractive, from cosmetics to cosmetic surgery is popular. The most effective cosmetic enhancements are the minor ones that make us appear more symmetrical. Even clothing can make people appear more symmetrical or empathise the symmetry of the body.

What if we don’t have a symmetrical face? We can at least try to appear clean and healthy. Perhaps hiding facial marks with makeup or adopting a suitable hairstyle. Unkempt hair appears to be a distinct disadvantage.

Behaviour is also important. Men are usually attracted to women with more feminine behavioural characteristics and women are attracted to dominant men. Aggressive behaviour in both sexes seems to be a turn off for most people though. Society works because we have certain rules of behaviour and people who break those rules and appear to not care about them might seem exciting to begin with, but make unreliable partners. The rules that have developed over many generations that make us polite are to enable better social interaction. People who don’t care about relationships, break the rules.

So if you’re looking for a date for Friday night, look your best and be on your best behaviour. You can’t really change your genetics…

You can share your thoughts in the comments box and you can also follow me on Twitter.

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