Golden Proportion

Flawed Beauty: How Imperfections Elevate Attractiveness


The blog explores the intriguing concept that a mix of attractive and less attractive features can enhance overall attractiveness. Langlois et al. (2000) study in the “Journal of Experimental Psychology” found that slight asymmetries in symmetrical faces can make them more memorable and engaging, suggesting that imperfections can contribute to attractiveness. The study notes that normal attractive faces often have some degree of asymmetry. Moreover, Little et al. (2011) in “Facial attractiveness: evolutionary based research” discuss how adding a feminine trait to a hyper-masculine face can enhance attractiveness. The balance of masculine strength and feminine softness can make the face more appealing, mitigating negative associations with extreme masculinity. Additionally, Elliot Aronson et al.’s (1966) research on the Pratfall Effect showed that competent individuals become more attractive after committing a clumsy mistake. This blunder humanizes them, making them more relatable and likable, as it breaks down the barrier of perceived perfection. Lastly, Lei et al. (2020) studied the contrast effect of facial attractiveness in groups. They found that a less attractive feature within a group can accentuate more attractive features by comparison. This contrast effect makes the individual’s attractive qualities stand out more distinctly.


Having many attractive features along with a single less attractive (or “ugly”) feature can enhance overall attractiveness is intriguing and can be explained through several psychological and social perspectives. In the realm of human attractiveness, psychological research offers insights into how imperfections can be appealing. A study by Langlois et al. (2000) in the “Journal of Experimental Psychology” found that while symmetrical faces are generally considered more attractive, slight asymmetries can make faces more memorable and engaging. This supports the idea that other qualities, potentially including certain imperfections, contribute to the perception of attractiveness. The study also suggests that “Normal faces, including attractive ones, have some degree of asymmetry”. This observation underscores that a certain level of imperfection, in this case, asymmetry, is a common feature in faces considered attractive.

When we talk about how imperfections can elevate attractiveness, sometimes adding a feminine feature to a hyper-masculine face enhances overall attractiveness. This notion is suggested by Little et al. (2011) in their study titled “Facial attractiveness: evolutionary based research”. According to this study, a hyper-masculine face, characterized by strong, rugged features, might conventionally symbolize good genes and robust health. However, the addition of a feminine trait can enhance this attractiveness, not merely for the trait itself but for the unique balance it introduces. This ‘softening’ of extreme masculinity may mitigate associations with negative personality traits, presenting a more cooperative, relatable partner. This interplay between masculine strength and feminine softness embodies a compelling trade-off in women’s preferences – a quest for good genes tempered by the desire for a caring partner. It’s a fascinating dance between strength and gentleness, highlighting how beauty, in its most intriguing form, is often found in the balance of contrasts.

The research on the Pratfall Effect, conducted by Elliot Aronson et al. (1966), showed that the attractiveness of a competent or “superior” person can be increased by a clumsy blunder and the study suggests that when a highly competent or superior person commits a clumsy mistake, it actually enhances their attractiveness. The rationale behind this is that people who are perceived as highly competent or nearly perfect can also seem distant or unrelatable. Their flawlessness might be intimidating or seem unattainable to others. Hence, displaying a flaw can humanize someone who otherwise appears too perfect, enhancing their likability and attractiveness because it breaks down the barrier of perceived perfection. People tend to feel more connected to those who they see as somewhat similar to themselves, including in their imperfections.

Research by Lei et al. (2020) on the contrast effect of facial attractiveness in groups provides insight into how the presence of a less attractive feature can accentuate more attractive features by contrast. The study found that in a group setting, individuals often focus selectively on the most attractive faces, which influences their memory and perception of the entire group’s attractiveness. This suggests that a less attractive feature within a group can enhance the perceived attractiveness of more appealing features by comparison. Similarly, in an individual, a less attractive feature may create a contrast effect, making their attractive features stand out more distinctly. This contrast can draw attention to and amplify the perception of the individual’s attractive qualities.


Langlois, J. H., Roggman, L. A., & Musselman, L. (1994). What is average and what is not average about attractive faces?. Psychological science5(4), 214-220.

Aronson, E., Willerman, B., & Floyd, J. (1966). The effect of a pratfall on increasing interpersonal attractiveness. Psychonomic Science4(6), 227-228.

Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., & DeBruine, L. M. (2011). Facial attractiveness: evolutionary based research. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences366(1571), 1638-1659.

Lei, Y., He, X., Zhao, T., & Tian, Z. (2020). Contrast effect of facial attractiveness in groups. Frontiers in Psychology11, 2258.

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