Here’s a picture of me taken at the end of last year. Do you notice anything unusual about it?
Yes? No? Here’s the answer: this is actually a picture of just one half of my face, reflected in a vertical axis so that each half mirrors the other. (If you want to have a go at this with a picture of yourself you can mess around at pichacks.com).
Reproduction quality aside, I think I look better than I do in the original (below).
That’s partly because I’ve chosen to reflect what I think of as my “good side”. It’s also because the manipulated image shows what I might look like if my face were perfectly symmetrical. And beauty is symmetry, according to several studies which have shown that the harmony of a symmetrical face is considered more attractive by both our own and the opposite sex.
There are many theories as to why this might be. Evolutionary psychologists would argue that we are programmed to be drawn to symmetrical faces because they are indicative of fitter genes (there is also research showing that women who are dating or married to symmetrical men have more orgasms; don’t say I don’t tell you how to have fun).
But that’s not all. Even more curiously, for anyone who has ever been hung up on a guy who was completely unsuitable but smelt just right…it appears that *women can smell when men have a symmetrical face.* I say that. It’s almost true. It would be more accurate to say that women don’t just prefer the look of men who have symmetrical faces, they also prefer their smell.
Researchers tested this by distributing identical white t-shirts to a group of men and asking them to wear their shirts in bed for two nights while using special non-scented soap and sheets washed with non-scented detergent. The men were also asked to refrain from eating garlic, onion, cabbage or strong cheeses; smoking; sleeping with another person; drinking alcohol and wearing after shave. Afterwards, women were asked to rate the smell of the shirts out of 10 for pleasantness, sexiness and intensity. When these results were analysed it was found that women who were ovulating showed a preference for the smell of symmetrical men, suggesting that we can sniff out good genes.
I make no further comment except to say that the first name of one of the authors of this study is Randy. Seriously.
And now, it’s Friday and it’s January which means that I have a bergamot in my fruit bowl and I intend to make a gin & tonic with it. Delicious.