Why are we attracted to some faces more than others? In Your Face is an engaging and authoritative tour of the science of facial beauty and face perception.
Arousing emotional feelings
Emotional feelings are not created spontaneously: they are evoked by the behavior and mood of others. What we end up feeling is bound up with our social environment, as we appraise the situation and catch from others the emotion appropriate to the moment.
So arousal makes people emotional, but which emotion they experience depends on social cues. While this a general theory that attempts to account for everyone’s emotions, it may not apply evenly. People vary in the extent to which they are aware of their own emotions and the extent to which they catch the feelings of others.
For most of us our ability to respond to the emotions of others lies at the core of our social nature and is part of what makes it easy to form relationships, in which attraction may sometimes translate into love.
What about attraction–is that subject to similar rules in turning adrenalin based excitement into positive feelings for a particular person?
The act of kissing liberates masses of oxytocin–a love potion, which bonds the couple. In the course of this bonding, each lover’s face becomes personally attractive to the other.
There are other pleasures systems: being touched or hugged causes us to make our own opiate chemicals (similar to codeine and heroine). These drugs that we ourselves produce float around in our brains and provide their own type of pleasure; they too have a role in bonding. All these chemicals pleasures responses act in concert with the high levels of oxytocing and lead to loving attachment between couples.
There is a dissociation between beauty and attractiveness: the two words seem more distinct for women than men. A clear majority of women surveyed informally thought that they could be attracted to someone who was not beautiful. A majority of men thought the words the same: they probably found all beautiful women personally attractive, but at least some men recognized that particular women are attractive though not necessarily beautiful.
Attractiveness reflects the personal desire to approach and be with someone. One can realize that people are ‘plain’, from the perspective of a classic beauty magazine, and yet still find them highly desirable, from a purely personal perspective. Their features arent’ symmetrical; they aren’t young; their nose is longer or shorter than the average… we know all this, and yet we know also that we love them. Their features would not be more attractive if they were other–yes, they might be more beautiful, but, no, we would not feel greater affection for them. For us, theirs is the face of love.