It's not what you think.
Women wear makeup, jewelry and fix our hair constantly. Hopefully, we do those things to feel better about ourselves and not just to get a man, because new research says that plain and simple is the new sexy.
A recent study published online in Royal Society Open Science says the one thing men find the most appealing about a woman's face is how simple it's perceived to be. Apparently, the simpler the face, the easier it is to cognitively process, making it more pleasing to the eye; our brain's have a tendency to gravitate toward simple stimuli.
For the study, led by Dr. Julien Renoult from the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, the research team wanted to better understand what traits men looked for when judging attractiveness in a woman's face. 169 men who were recruited from the south of France were shown a series of random women's faces on a computer, and were asked to rank the faces on a scale between zero (the lowest point on the attractiveness scale) and 20 (that's a double 10).
The researchers then developed an algorithm to filter out the facial traits that men found most attractive. The algorithm specifically looked for a trait known as sparseness in its appraisal of beauty and found a strong connection between the two.
"A sparse face is a face that is efficiently encoded in the brain — that is, using only a few neurons. In other words, they are easy to process in the brain," Renoult told Medical Daily. "Sparse faces typically are simple, with a smooth skin texture, few wrinkles, and smooth contour lines."
Women's faces that are the easiest for the brain to process are the symmetrical, plainer ones with no major distinguishing features.
Renoult said that this research could help to highlight the need for a better understanding of why we see certain physical traits as beautiful, how this perception evolves, and the role it plays in sexual selection.
"We found that sparseness can explain between 10 and 15 percent of variation in attractiveness, which makes room for many other biological, cultural, and individual factors that influence mate choice."
Who knew that the simple smiley face emoticon would be the standard of facial attractiveness?