MadSci Network: Evolution

Re: why are small mouth and big eyes considered pretty in human species?

Date: Fri Jul 6 18:32:07 2001
Posted By: Jacqueline Sigmon, Graduate, Geology, Eastern Washington University, Dept. of Geology
Area of science: Evolution
ID: 994391144.Ev

"Weeds are just pretty flowers that we don't like."--unknown. The same holds true for human features. Society decides what physical features are considered beautiful: in China women with tiny feet are preferrable, for example, and some tribes prefer women with long slender necks. Many older cultures (i.e. Egypt, early Europe, etc.) believed that the eyes were the "window to the soul," and those with large eyes were more beautiful. Not only did this belief stem cliche's like "The Evil Eye***," but they also caused a long standing concept of human beauty. The human mind does tend to show preference towards "prettiness" in terms of symmetry. Babies who look at two faces of very different levels of symmetry, will react with more smiles to the one that is more symmetric (left side to right side symmetry, with an imaginary line drawn down the middle of the forehead, nose, etc) than to those who lack noticable symmetry (like a droopy eye). So, it is a combination of the genetic predisposition towards symmetry coupled with cultural mores or values regarding specific physical traits that make large eyes and small mouths (upper/lower symmetry) more "desirable" than those that are not. ***"The Evil Eye" was a considerable source of fear in centuries past, it was believed that you could be killed by someone sending evil through one's eye. Protective charms against the evil eye were worn around the neck near the face, in the belief that this would ward attack.

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