The need to be beautiful

PHOTO: The need to be beautiful

Age can rob a person of his good looks. But beauty, in essence, is an ageless topic.

Man has long sought to define beauty. The Greek philosopher Plato, who lived more than 2,300 years ago, famously said: "The three wishes of every man - to be healthy, to be rich by honest means, and to be beautiful."

What exactly does it mean to be beautiful? The mathematical concept of the "golden ratio" has been used to determine if a person's facial features are attractive. In 2010, the University of Toronto in Canada and the University of California in the United States came up with a new ratio to identify a pretty face by measuring its vertical and horizontal dimensions. For example, the distance between the pupils in relation to the width of the face.

What about inner beauty?

Interestingly, an experiment by Japanese scientists published in 2010 showed that the same region of the brain is activated when making judgments on both a person's facial attractiveness and moral goodness. This, they suggested, may lend some credence to the assumption that "attractive" people possess sociably desirable personalities and higher moral standards.

Health-wise, well, beauty may be able to make you happier.

A 2011 study which analysed data of more than 10,000 people from the US, Canada, Britain and Germany found that being beautiful makes people happier.

This is mainly because beauty is said to be able to improve economic outcomes - marriage prospects, for example - that increase happiness.

Today, medical science has allowed doctors to reshape, refresh and redefine faces to take us closer to our own ideal of beauty.

Yet, we have also heard of horror stories of cosmetic procedures gone wrong and frown upon the unnatural looks of celebrities whose love for such treatments has gone too far.

Like it or not, chasing after beauty is only human. But as with many things in life, it is best to pursue it in a moderate fashion.

chpoon@sph.com.sg


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