In the quest to understand what makes a face attractive, researchers have turned their attention to a seemingly inconspicuous feature: eyelashes. A recent study, spanning different ethnicities, delves into the relationship between eyelash length and perceived attractiveness, shedding light on the evolutionary factors that shape our beauty perceptions.
Eyelashes have long been associated with protecting the eyes from contaminants, excessive evaporation, and airflow-induced stress. But their role in attractiveness has remained a topic of intrigue for scientists. The study aimed to uncover whether the preference for eyelash length, as a factor of attractiveness, is consistent across various ethnic backgrounds. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The research, conducted in the US, involved participants of Asian, Black, and White ethnicities rating the attractiveness of female faces from the same ethnic groups. These faces were digitally altered to feature varying eyelash lengths, ranging from no eyelashes to eyelashes half the width of the eye.
Surprisingly, the results showed a remarkable similarity across all ethnicities: a preference for eyelash lengths approximately one-third the width of the eye. This finding supports the idea of an “inverted-U” function for eyelash length preference, suggesting that eyelashes that are too short or too long are less attractive.
But an intriguing nuance emerged from the study. While the preference for eyelash length followed a similar pattern across ethnicities, there were slight variations. Black women, for instance, were found to prefer a slightly greater eyelash-to-eye-width ratio than women from other ethnic backgrounds, though the reasons for this remain unclear.
The study, led by Pazhoohi and Kingstone, also investigated whether participants’ own ethnicity influenced their preferences. Interestingly, the results indicated that, regardless of their own ethnic background, participants displayed a consistent preference for the same range of eyelash lengths.
Notably, this preference was not limited to one gender. Both men and women participated in the study, and their responses aligned closely. This suggests that the impact of eyelash length on perceived attractiveness transcends gender boundaries.
The study’s methodology involved participants individually rating the attractiveness of each face, presenting the images in separate blocks based on ethnicity. The order of the blocks and the images within each block were randomised to minimise biases.
One noteworthy aspect of this research is the use of 3D-generated stimuli rather than real faces. While this may have reduced the ecological validity, it allowed for precise control over various aspects of the stimuli, such as hair colour, facial ratios, and brightness. Future studies may opt to use real faces to enhance ecological validity.
This study focused exclusively on female faces, limiting its generalizability to male faces. Future research could expand on these findings by including male faces from various ethnic backgrounds.
The findings of this study align with previous research, which also suggested that longer eyelashes contribute to higher attractiveness ratings. But this study delves further into the range of eyelash lengths and the influence of ethnicity on preferences.
This cross-ethnicity study provides compelling evidence that there is a consistent preference for eyelash lengths around one-third the width of the eye, regardless of a person’s own ethnicity. This suggests that our perceptions of attractiveness are shaped by evolutionary factors that prioritize both eye protection and vision.