How attractive people appear isn’t entirely about the structure or specific features of their faces. According to new research, It’s also about how hard you’re looking, Scientific American reports. A study by Harvard psychologists suggests that faces appear more attractive if you’re paying more attention to them.
The study, published in Psychological Science, analyzed almost 50 participants across three studies. To get people to pay attention to certain faces, the researchers showed a black dot either to the left or right of a computer screen just before participants viewed two faces side by side. The researchers told the participants that the dot was irrelevant to the test. They found that the “cued” face—i.e., the one that appeared in the same place as the dot—was consistently perceived as more attractive than the other face shown.
“This indicates that perceived attractiveness of a face does not depend only on the face’s physical attributes,” the researchers write. “Rather, perceived attractiveness of a face appears not to be fixed, even for a given observer, but to vary with the observer’s focus.”
While 50 people isn’t a representative population sample to draw conclusions from, this does provide a potential explanation for why you might not find someone attractive at first glance but grow to appreciate their looks more as you get to know them. Maybe you’re just paying more attention.
[h/t Scientific American]