Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. A new study is showing that attractiveness isn't so much a product of facial structure or features, but rather how hard you're looking — prolonged starting someone's face makes them more attractive. While the research itself is fascinating, and could suggest a lot in terms of how our brains work and how evolution plays into our perceptions, it's also a gentle reminder that love and kindness really is rooted in attention and presence.
The study, which was recently published in Psychological Science, analyzed roughly 50 faces, having participants stare first at a black dot either to the left or right of a computer screen right before they looked at the faces in question. Though they were told that the dot was irrelevant, the participants found that the "cued" face (as in, the one that appeared in the same place as the dot) was consistently perceived as more attractive than the other face. “Perceived attractiveness of a face does not depend only on the face’s physical attributes,” the study noted. “Rather, perceived attractiveness of a face appears not to be fixed, even for a given observer, but to vary with the observer’s focus.”
While the research was brief — 50 people isn't expansive enough to draw conclusions about the entire population — it doesn't mean nothing. First of all, the idea that attractiveness is objective is something that hurts people profoundly (think of societal beauty standards, and how often people feel insecure because of them), and this study shows that it is, in fact, subjective. That is, beauty is not just one thing, it's lots of things, and it all depends on what you're paying attention to. This could be why the people we love become more attractive to us (we're just looking at them more often). However, it could also explain why people have "types," or find certain things attractive — if they're actively looking for them, as this study proves, they're more likely to find them appealing.
What does this mean for you? Well, while the results are mostly preliminary, assuming they are indicative of a larger pattern, having someone find you attractive is a matter of whether or not they're interested enough to pay attention, open up, and try. It's no surprise that healthy, happy relationships (platonic and not) are a product of intention and effort, and this confirms why: when we're paying attention to the things and people we love and appreciate, we love and appreciate them more and more. Whether it's someone's facial features or really anything else in life, it's not about what's there as much as it is what you choose to see.
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