Beautiful Doesn’t Always Mean Attractive

The fundamental difference between beauty and physical attractiveness.

The Golden Ratio of Beauty originates from the time of the Greeks and Romans and was popularized during the Renaissance when artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci used this mathematical principle to compute the beauty in their masterpieces. According to the ratio, the ideal proportion between various sites of the face is 1.618. While historically different cultures were believed to have different standards of beauty, more recent work has found high consistency between people’s judgments of facial beauty within and between cultures. Research has also shown that our perceptions of beauty may be hard-wired into our being such that newborn infants look longer at pictures of beautiful faces.

A recent study published by facial cosmetic surgeon Julian De Silva implemented this mathematical formula to determine the world’s most beautiful woman in 2019. In the article, he claimed Bella Hadid was the world’s most beautiful women followed by Beyonce.

Source: Daily Mail/Used with permission

This list has led to significant controversy around the Golden Ratio and what it means to be beautiful. Take a look at Webster’s definition of beauty: “The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses.” When discussing the physical beauty of an individual, this definition is assessed by the visual sense. Of course, when appreciating physical beauty through sight, there are certainly implications about the ways in which the subject may be pleasing to the other senses as well.

Attractiveness, on the other hand, is defined as “arousing interest or pleasure; appealing.” Beyond pleasure, the inclusion of interest and appeal into the criteria for attractiveness allows for more subjectivity. There are many factors that influence one’s perception of attractiveness to another such as sociocultural attributes and personal preferences unique to a particular individual’s tastes and life experiences. One such example is the preference for self-resemblance. One study showed that heterosexual males in particular are more likely to rate an individual of the opposite-gender as more attractive when that individual looks more similar to their own appearance than someone who does not. This is presumably due to inferences drawn about shared genetic background. Another interesting perspective is that of perceptual narrowing, in which there is a decrease in the discrimination ability between facial attributes to which we are not regularly exposed to during critical times in our development.

Although the perception of beauty is more consistent within and between groups, it is of course not universally standard. Ultimately, though, it is the additional dimensions of perceived interest and appeal inherent to the concept of attractiveness that explain why not all readers would agree that Bella Hadid is in fact the world’s most attractive woman despite her 94.35% Golden Ratio score.


Leave a reply