What Makes a Person Beautiful?

ByABC News

May 24, 2001 -- Just look at Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington or Marilyn Monroe for proof of this theory: The more symmetrical we are, the more attractive we are to others.

The ideal beauty can be broken down into simple math, says Randy Thornhill of the University of Mexico.

"We measure ears, and we measure fingers and feet and ankles and compare the traits on the two sides of the body," he says, to actually calculate the beauty ratio of those he calls the physically fabulous and the proportionally challenged.

Being Beautiful Gets You Far

Thornhill's earlier studies have shown that symmetrical people have more sex, both in and out of steady relationships and that symmetrical males tend to cheat a lot more than their lopsided counterparts.

Not only do beautiful people have more sex, but they also make more money.

Daniel Hamermesh, an economist who studies the impact of beauty on business, has proved that better-looking people can earn more money for themselves and for their companies.

If this leaves you feeling that life is not fair, it gets worse. Researchers at Iona College in New York and at Eastern Carolina University have found that justice isn't blind either. Their independent studies with mock jurors both indicate that the uglier the defendant, the longer the sentence, even when the crime was the same.

So why do we react so strongly to beauty? Scientists say it's because symmetrical people tend to be healthier than others, and we are biologically programmed to seek out the healthiest mate we can find to produce the healthiest children we can.

But there's still some comfort to be taken. Even Dr Thornhill admits this isn't an exact science.