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So you’ve been having this argument with your friend for a while: You think Gigi Hadid is the most beautiful girl on the planet (we’ve got 10 pictures that prove it), he’s got a crush on Erin Heatherton, but neither of you gets the other’s infatuation. Why the disparity?
It turns out you might each have a “type” you find attractive after all—and that your “type” is rooted in your individual, personal experience, according to research published in the journal Current Biology.
The study, which was conducted on identical twins, was designed to illuminate where people’s disagreements over attractiveness come from. By analyzing the preferences of over 35,000 volunteers who visited their “Rate My Face” website (TestMyBrain.org), researchers developed a “highly efficient and effective test of the uniqueness of an individual’s face preferences.” The research team then used that test to analyze the preferences of 547 pairs of identical twins and 214 pairs of same-sex, non-identical twins by having them rate the attractiveness of 200 faces. This way, the researchers could see the relative contribution of genes and environments on face preference, since past research has shown personalities, interests, and abilities are passed down from generations of twins and families in general.
Turns out the “eye of the beholder” is based on experiences, not genes. And, as you can imagine, these experiences are specific to each individual, down to the tiniest detail.
“The types of environments that are important are not those that are shared by those who grow up in the same family, but are much more subtle and individual, potentially including things such as one’s unique, highly personal experiences with friends or peers, as well as social and popular media,” study author Laura Germine writes.
Naturally, some aspects of attractiveness (i.e. symmetrical facial structure) are universal, and maybe even coded in our genes, the researchers say. People’s aesthetic preferences (face-wise) agree about 50 percent of the time. But for that other 50 percent, what’s attractive is based on personal experience.
That means the girl you see every day on your morning commute, the leading lady in your favorite sitcom, and your first crush all have an influence on the type of woman you find attractive—even if your brother doesn’t get the attraction.
But let’s agree on one thing, gents: Erin Heatherton and Gigi Hadid are both gorgeous.