General Question

BronxLens's avatar

Can beauty be quantified?

Asked by BronxLens (1539points) July 30th, 2008

A New York Times article stated that participants identified their portraits quicker when their faces were computer enhanced to be 20% more attractive. How does one take a subjective quality as ‘attractiveness’ and quantify it as a percentage? Is there software that can do this?! Does anyone in the fashion or talent industry ever speak in these terms? E.g. “Get me someone not less than x% as pretty/handsome than ______ (insert name of favorite model / Hollywood star).

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14 Answers

EnzoX24's avatar

I think in this case we refer back to the “Scale”. Remember, the “Scale” goes from one to ten. 20% of 10 is 2. That is common knowledge. So now we must bump up these people by two levels. This woman is currently a 7, lets make her a nine. This man is a 3, now he’s a 5. This model is a 10, let me borrow her picture for a bit….

You can see the pattern. Once again the “Scale” solves another dilemma.

aidje's avatar

They probably increased the degree of symmetry.

Indy318's avatar

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (cheesy, I know). There are over 6 billion people in this world, each with a different percieption of idle beauty. everyone’s “scale” is different because beauty is an abstract and broad quality that has no true peak or base (someone will always be uglier or prettier than you).

marinelife's avatar

This psychology experiment and others like it show that it is both objective and subjective. This experiment changed the perception of beauty by changing proportion, specifically the golden ratio of classical art. Here is an excerpt:

“In the present study we investigated the aesthetic effect of objective parameters in the works of art by studying brain activations (fMRI) in viewers naïve to art criticism who observed images of sculptures selected from masterpieces of Classical and Renaissance art that are commonly accepted as normative Western representations of beauty. An important feature that characterized the present study distinguishing it from others that also have attempted to clarify the neural correlates of aesthetic perception [5]–[8] was the use of two sets of stimuli that were identical in every aspects but one: proportion. More specifically, a parameter that is considered to represent the ideal beauty, namely the golden ratio (1:0.618; for reviews see [9], [10]), was modified to create a degraded aesthetic value of the same stimuli in a controlled fashion (Figure 1)”

anonyjelly16's avatar

As much as the idea is offensive, probably just about anything can be quantified. After all, you’re just collecting data on the characteristics of things that people like and don’t like.

I always thought it was better to think of beauty as “personified”—perhaps in a loved one—rather than quantified with numbers. I will have to check into the article you posted.

Eight's avatar

Simple. The millihelen is the unit of beauty. It is equal to sufficient beauty to launch one ship. 1000 millihelen = beauty to launch a thousand ships.

BronxLens's avatar

I love the miilihelen concept! For those who want to play along .

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Thanks Bronxlens, that link gave me a good chuckle!

Knotmyday's avatar

Beauty is not an element that can be broken into units and measured. Even the golden ratio sets a subjective standard; one not held by all peoples and cultures. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. So, no.

gatablanca's avatar

natural symetrical qualities

GG's avatar

Yes, the articles I’ve seen about studying beauty pinpointed facial and body symmetry. As well, men in all cultures are most attracted to women who have a classic “hourglass” shape, with a specific ratio of bust to hips to ass. I forget the numbers now. But this was very striking in the research, it’s cross-cultural. The underlying reason why these things appeal to us is most likely that we are associate these factors with high fertility and lower birth defects, so they are hard-wired into our unconscious reproductive strategies. In other words, “beauty” is attractive so we can reproduce more effectively.

jvgr's avatar

If you take a stroll through a History of Western Art, you will easily see that what was considered “beautiful” varied a great deal through the ages. Different body types were favoured at different times.

Harken's avatar

Enhanced “Beauty” on a computer most likely means taking out all blemishes. Brighten a picture enough and everyone looks like they are flawless. Oh except poor ugly bastards!

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