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Symmetry and Pattern: The Art of Oriental Carpets

Radial vs Bilateral Symmetry

Discovering Symmetry

Symbol of Beauty: Symmetry in Nature

The Sources of Symmetry

Averageness and Symmetry: The Assessment of Beauty

Human Body Odour, Symmetry, and Attractiveness

On the Evolution of Human Aesthetic Preferences

The Computational Beauty of Nature

Beauty and Symmetry

Waltzing With Asymmetry

Fluctuating Asymmetry and Developmental Stability

References from the Scientific Literature on Subtle Asymmetries

The Biological Importance of Perfect Symmetry

Asymmetry, Developmental Stability and Evolution

Brain Asymmetry and Facial Attractiveness

Facial Beauty

Sex and the Symmetrical Body

Human Symmetry References

Symmetry Around the World


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First published: October 2000 Revised: January 2003

Beauty: Form and Symmetry

by Michael Sones

June 1991 (Cover)
June 1991 (Cover)
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Christy Turlington, a supermodel and acknowledged as one of the most beautiful women in the world, has attributed much of her success as an advertising icon to the perfect symmetry of her lips. Proportion and symmetry in an object seem to be nearly always essential to our visual perception and experience of that object as being beautiful. A balance and proportion of parts in relation to a whole is essential for symmetry. Symmetric objects are usually more pleasing to look at than asymmetric one.

Even human infants have a preference for looking at symmetrical patterns rather than nonsymmetrical ones. The association of symmetry with beauty and form is an ancient one. The word symmetry originates from the Greek 'sum metria' which means 'same measure.' A fifth century B.C. Greek sculptor, Polykleitos, is apparently one of the first to have used the term.

Most plants and animals are symmetrical while many inanimate or man made objects are not. Symmetry in animals seems to be of a left-right nature rather than up-down. This is called bilateral symmetry. It is thought that the power of gravity and a necessity for fluid and sometimes rapid motion are responsible for the evolution of this in animals. If animals were asymmetrical, that is, if they had two legs on one side and one on the other, it would be very difficult for them to balance or to move very fast. This would not aid their adaptation to the environment. An animal could not escape quickly from a predator if it hobbled and wobbled. Another form of defensive protection, such as the armour of the armadillo or the quills of the porcupine, would be necessary. A lion has enough trouble as it is catching a gazelle, never mind if it had only three legs. If a giraffe had tiny little legs with a thin neck near the ground and a great big body up in the air it would look very funny just before it toppled over.

Vitruvian Man 1492
Vitruvian Man 1492
Leonardo da Vinci
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Think of the beauty of the horse's symmetrical form and its evocation of intelligence, power, and speed and how these are linked with both the hunt, freedom to roam, and the ability to escape from danger.

Symmetry is also an indication of both youthfulness and health. Human males whose bodies are more symmetrical with even length limbs are more attractive to females than non-symmetrical males. Symmetrical flowers are more attractive to bees because they have more nectar. Symmetrical animals tend to survive longer than asymmetrical ones so symmetry seems to be a sign of overall fitness. It can also be a sign of greater fertility. A study found that women with large, symmetrical breasts tended to be more fertile than women with asymmetrical breasts. Symmetry is also often a sign of physical health in that a blemish or defect can highlight a potential disorder or disease. Facial asymmetry is an indication of aging. The 'Proportions of Man' by Leonardo is a famous work illustrating human symmetry.

The recognition of something having a pattern seems to bring about almost an intuitive or instinctive aesthetic response. Generally we prefer the rhythm, repetition and thematic variation of patterns to the chaotic and irregular. If something has a pattern it is easier to spot the out of place and therefore possibly dangerous.

Symmetrical Plant

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Awakening BeautyAnthony Napoleon, the author of Awakening Beauty: An Illustrated Look at Mankind's Love and Hatred of Beauty, is a psychologist who has spent many years studying beauty and its impact upon both individuals and society. He has worked with both cosmetic surgery patients and beauty pageant contestants as well as conducting original research into the field. Awakening Beauty is an unprecedented exposé on the subject of beauty. It is both entertaining and thought provoking, a combination that is as unique as it is telling about the author's approach to the subject of this book. The reader is taken backstage into the worlds of beauty pageants, plastic surgery, trophy wives, murderous rage, wardrobe, makeup, Bill Clinton, the events of September Eleven and other provocative topics where beauty has had its effect. Awakening Beauty invites the reader into a world that is as interesting as it is frightening. Readers are transformed as the author shepherds them from their world into his unique perspective and expertise on beauty. Awakening Beauty includes over one hundred tantalizing photographs and illustrations. Awakening Beauty is a compendium of some of the most interesting facts in print. The subject matter of the book along with the author's unique approach to it makes this book a "must read." Get ready to re-think everything you thought you knew about beautiful women and physical attractiveness.

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