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Scientists prove beauty really is in the eye of the beholder

December 21, 2016, 16:02 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The research was aimed at finding out the correlation between the factors of different sensory modalities and a partner’s overall attractiveness in a romantic relationship

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© Kirill Kukhmar/TASS

MOSCOW, December 21. /TASS/. Researchers from the Tyumen State University (TyumSU) and the Saint Petersburg State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering together with their colleagues from the US, Portugal, France, and Georgia conducted a survey, questioning more than 1,300 people from four countries in order to discover what attracts people the most to their partners' appearance, the media center of TyumSU said. According to the research’s results, the key factors of attractiveness depend strongly on culture.

"Our cross-cultural research showed general and specific features for the countries analyzed," researchers said in an article published recently in the Cross-Cultural Research journal. "What is more interesting, cultural differences can be determined either by a country’s climate, peculiarities or by its traditions and cultural values."

Study’s subjects and methods

In Elena Zarubko’s study, a research assistant at TyumSU, 786 women and 533 men aged from 19 to 25 from four countries - Russia, Portugal, France, and Georgia - took part in the study and were surveyed in written form or online.

The research was aimed at finding out the correlation between the factors of different sensory modalities (sight, hearing, touch, smell) and a partner’s overall attractiveness in a romantic relationship.

The individuals surveyed answered two series of questions. In the first series, people had to evaluate the accuracy of the expressions on a scale of 5 (1 - totally disagree; 5 - totally agree) describing their attraction to a partner. For example, there were such statements as "I often want to hug this person" or "In the presence of this person, I feel more energetic".

In the second series, people had to evaluate the importance of various features on a scale of 5 (1 - doesn’t matter; 5 - the most important). In the survey, they were presented such features as a rich facial expression, nose shape, singing skills, or a nice scent. Besides, people were asked about the duration of their relationship, their nationality, gender, and other reference information.

Study’s results

It turns out that the most important sensory factors were: a smile (with average grade 3.82 among men and 3.74 among women), pleasant laughter (3.78 for either women and men), clothes (3.50 among men and 3.76 among women) and attractive parts of the body (3.94 among man and 3.50 among women). The crucial factors include visual modality (smile, clothes, and body shape) as well as smell (breath) and sound (laughter).

The importance of other factors varies significantly with gender and nationality. Thus, for example, Georgian women pay more attention to man’s singing skills than do Portuguese or Russian (2.08 for Georgians, 1.62 for Portuguese, and 1.74 for Russians) women. Moreover, the research showed that on average women pay more attention to a partner’s breath (3.82 for women against 3.62 for men, which is significant for the statistics).

In addition, researchers have developed a linear regression model and showed that the most important factors of attraction between romantic partners, according to the first series of questions, are a rich facial expression, smile, and lips, while less important are clothes and voice.

Researchers emphasized that the set statistical relationship does not mean there is a causal relationship, and the approach to self-evaluation can lead to the misrepresentation, so they intend to continue the research and to further study sensory factors.

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