Finding true love a balancing act

WHEN it comes to selecting a life partner it seems we're not as civilised as we think.

Intelligence, sense of humour and honesty may be listed as desirable qualities on internet dating sites, but what we connect with first goes back to prehistoric times – and that's the physical.

However, it's not the more obvious attributes that spark the mating impulse.

It's all about symmetry, according to psychologist Anna Brooks.

Having one side of the face and body mirror the other as accurately as possible underlies everyone's initial judgment – through all cultures and sexual preferences, she said.

Exactly why that should be, and how we measure it, the Southern Cross University researcher is about to find out.

Dr Brooks is travelling to Switzerland to scrutinise men and women using MRI and photography to identify everything from how they walk to what happens in their brains during “mate selection”.

She will be looking for the visual cues to human attraction – what makes symmetry so desirable.

“We don't even know we're doing it. But very quickly we size up how symmetrical someone is. In the evolutionary sense it was important to be able to make judgments of people from a distance, which is why vision is so important.

It still manifests today. Without realising it we're still using our animal instincts.”

There is some consolation for the asymmetrical. There is no such thing as a truly symmetrical face – though someone like Angelina Jolie comes close, said Dr Brooks.

She stresses this is about initial attraction: “It doesn't mean that if you are a bit lop-sided you won't find a lasting mate.”

And, she said, other factors come into play during the mating, such as a sense of smell.
“But visual is the most important.”

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