July 27, 2022 – At a time when social media and celebrity icons are driving increased demand for fuller, “pout” lips, a natural, seamless lip appearance is seen as most appealing, reports research in the August issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Eye-tracking studies show that viewers actually spend more time looking at lips deemed less attractive — suggesting that more attractive lips don’t mean increased attention, according to new research by Sebastian Cotofana, MD, PhD. of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues. They write: “Visual attention, based on the results of this study, does not reflect the beauty of the assessed image; quite the contrary.”
“Perceived beauty effortlessly matches the ‘internal standard'”
From a stock photo of a young woman, the researchers created a set of digitally altered images depicting a range of lip proportions (ratio of upper lip to lower lip) and volumes. A panel of observers – mostly volunteers with no medical or aesthetic training, as well as several plastic surgeons and dermatologists – rated the images for their attractiveness. The researchers also used eye-tracking technology to assess which parts of the model’s face the evaluators were looking at and how long they spent looking at each area.
In subjective ratings, a lip ratio of 1 to 1.6 (upper lip to lower lip) was found to be the most attractive: average score of 4.21 out of a possible 5. The ratio of 1:1.6 is widely accepted as the “golden ratio” for beautiful lips. In comparison, an image showing a fuller lower lip (ratio 1:2) was perceived as less attractive, with an average rating of 2.16 out of 5.
When evaluating lip volume, an image showing the model’s “unaugmented natural volume” was found to be the most appealing: average score of 4.56. In contrast, for an image showing the lips enlarged to 130% of their natural volume, the average score was 1.56. The preference for a more natural appearance “confirms previous investigations and current trends in aesthetic medicine,” write Dr. Cotofana and coauthors.
In the eye-tracking analysis, raters actually spent less time looking at the lips rated as the most attractive: those with a 1:1.6 ratio and 100% lip volume. In contrast, they spent more time looking at the images showing digitally altered lips.
Potential value mismatch
Why would observers pay more attention to features they found less appealing? This may reflect a potential mismatch between the observed image and the evaluator’s “internal standard” of beauty. “Visual stimuli that match the internal, socially influenced standard of beauty require less effort to perceive,” says Dr. Cotofana. “In contrast, visual stimuli that do not meet the internal standard of beauty require more processing time, as evidenced by involuntary eye movements captured by eye tracking.”
Thus, the results challenge the assumption that viewers will spend more time looking at the attractive parts of an image. The researchers add: “This could rather reflect the cognitive processing of the observers: less attractive content captures the attention of observers more quickly, but requires more time to be processed.
The findings may have implications for understanding aesthetic trends and behaviors – especially in the age of selfies and social media driving demands for cosmetic plastic surgery and non-invasive procedures, including lip enhancement procedures. using dermal fillers.
Although the results may seem surprising, they are in line with current trends in cosmetic medicine and surgery – emphasizing a more natural result, without obvious signs that the person has undergone surgery. “It can now be postulated that a ‘beautiful’ and ‘aesthetically pleasing’ result would fulfill the desired requirements when the patient is perceived by those around him with less cognitive effort”, conclude Dr. Cotofana and his co-authors. “[T]he perceived that beauty matched the “internal standard” effortlessly.
Click here to read “Finding the most attractive lip proportions and volume: an eye tracker and a survey-based survey”
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® is published in Wolters Kluwer’s Lippincott portfolio.
About Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
For more than 75 years, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® (http://www.prsjournal.com/) has always been the excellent reference for any specialist who uses plastic surgery techniques or works in collaboration with a plastic surgeon. The official journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® brings subscribers up-to-date reports on the latest techniques and follow-up for all areas of plastic and reconstructive surgery, including breast reconstruction, experimental studies, maxillofacial reconstruction, hand and microsurgery, burn repair and cosmetic surgery, as well as news on medico-legal issues.
About the ASP
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. Representing more than 7,000 physician members, the society is recognized as a leading authority and source of information on aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises over 94% of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the society represents physicians certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
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