‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ Is this idiom wrong?
In the African nation of Mauritania, big is beautiful. Some women even visit “fat farms” where they gorge on large quantities of high calorie foods, hoping to return home a bit rounder. Meanwhile, weight-loss camps are gaining popularity in many western nations.
From culture to culture, ideas of beauty vary. In rural Indonesia, for example, big feet are celebrated. For indigenous Maori people in New Zealand, blue face tattoos are desirable. And long earlobes are a sign of beauty to the Masai people of Kenya.
They say beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, but it may also lie in a mathematical calculation.
Did you know that a numerical ratio of 1 to 1.618 can actually predict beauty? It’s called the “divine proportion” or “golden ratio.” It shows up in all cultures and across all time periods. And people considered beautiful have faces and bodies that often display this golden ratio.
In beautiful people, the ratio is often present in the distance between the eyes compared to the length of the lower face. It can also appear in the length of the arms relative to body height. To determine whether an entire face reflects the divine ratio, first, measure the length and the width of the face. Then, divide the length by the width. The closer the answer is to 1.6, the more the face exhibits the divine ratio.
Even more interesting is that the golden ratio isn’t exclusive to human beauty. It exists frequently in nature as well. The golden ratio can be found in the spiral of a snail’s shell, in the petals of certain flowers, and on the markings of a tiger’s head.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, constructed in 2484 BC, also displays the golden ratio. But the golden ratio doesn’t appear in recorded history until around 300 BC. During this time, Greek mathematicians noticed the golden ratio consistently appearing in geometric shapes. The ancient Greeks were obsessed with physical perfection, and many of Greece’s most famous sculptures display the golden ratio.
In modern times, some people even have plastic surgery to achieve this special ratio. Humans continue to be captivated by beauty. Yet, pursuits of physical beauty aren’t always fulfilling. More than half of plastic surgery patients regret the procedure.
We’ve all heard the idiom, “Beauty is only skin deep.” And indeed, a recent study found that the most attractive qualities in a partner had little to do with physical appearance. Instead, participants chose playfulness, kindness, and humor to be most important.
So what is it that really makes a person beautiful? What do you think?