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Attractiveness as a function of eyebrow position and shape in women
The following image shows three types of eyebrows: high positioned with maximum height in the middle, high positioned with maximum height in the lateral third and low positioned with maximum height in the lateral third, respectively.
Fig. 1. From left to right: Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe and Heidi Klum.
Feser et al.(1; zip) assessed preferences for these eyebrow shapes in a sample of individuals ranging from age 12 to 85 by varying eyebrow position and shape in seven composite faces. A composite face is simply a mixture of different faces that represents the average of these faces. Whereas the procedure used to generate these averages is typically faulty, the averages look more attractive than most individuals comprising the average, and the process of averaging is not relevant here. An example of eyebrow manipulation on a composite face corresponding to the three types of eyebrows in Fig. 1 is shown in Fig. 2.
Fig. 2. Three types of eyebrows on a composite face corresponding to the eyebrow types in Fig. 1, respectively.
Note that the low position in Fig. 2 is still higher than in Heidi Klum.
The general find was that higher placed eyebrows were most often preferred, which is consistent with a preference for above average femininity in women. Judges in the age range 12-19, especially those in the age range 15-19, found low-set eyebrows more appealing than older individuals. Judges in the age range 12-14 and 50+ preferred high-set eyebrows with maximum height in the middle (e.g., Greta Garbo) to high-set eyebrows with maximum height in the lateral third.
Till the 1970s, high-arched eyebrows with maximum height in middle as in Greta Garbo were fashionable among female movie stars, and perhaps the preferences of the older individuals partly reflect what they grew up with. The authors’ explained that those aged 12-14 could have “internalized” the beauty ideal of their mother, but this does not appear very plausible because they preferred low-set eyebrows to a clearly greater extent than their mothers did. And, how would this “internalization” take place? A possible explanation is the very feminine appearance of high-arched eyebrows, which children may find more appealing till their early teens. The authors also contend that a trend toward a preference for lower-set eyebrows will be seen in the future as older individuals die and end up replaced by present teens who are more likely to prefer lower-set eyebrows, but it cannot be assumed that eyebrow placement preference is somehow fixed throughout the lifespan. The group that preferred the low-set eyebrows most extensively was in the 15-19 age range, which is when teenagers are most influenced by fashion imagery, which disproportionately comprises of [masculinized] female models having lower-set eyebrows.
The following image shows the outline of a face that Stephen Marquardt claims represents the ideal female beauty. Note that the eyebrows in it are placed very low, clearly at odds with what most people prefer. Once again, how can ideal female beauty be inconsistent with majority preferences?
Fig. 3. Marquardt’s Phi (golden ratio) mask.
- Feser, D. K., Grundl, M., Eisenmann-Klein, M., and Prantl, L., Attractiveness of eyebrow position and shape in females depends on the age of the beholder, Aesthetic Plast Surg, 31, 154 (2007).