People of mixed race are perceived as more attractive than non-mixed race people, a new study has found. And the theories of Charles Darwin, father of evolutionary theory, can back the findings up.
In the largest survey of its kind, Dr Michael Lewis of Cardiff University’s School of Psychology collected a random selection of photographs of 1205 black, white and mixed-race faces. Each of the faces in the pictures was then rated for its perceived attractiveness to others, with mixed-race faces, on average, being rated as more attractive.
Previous, small-scale samples have shown this to be true, but this study was an attempt to put the theory to the wider test, said Dr Lewis, who will present his findings to the British Psychological Association today.
But Dr Lewis also thinks the study shows something deeper than simply whether you find mixed-race people better-looking or not. He believes his results are a perceptual demonstration of heterosis in humans - a theory established by Darwin in 1876, which predicts that cross-breeding leads to offspring that are genetically fitter (not in that sense) than their parents.
According to Dr Lewis: “the results appear to confirm that people whose genetic backgrounds are more diverse are, on average, perceived as more attractive than those who backgrounds are less diverse.”
So is this merely proof that widening the gene pool – as geneticists have told us for years – is healthier all round? Or are mixed-race people simply and genuinely more attractive?
Dr Lewis also asserts that success, not merely looks, might be attributable to heterosis. “This comes from the observation that, although mixed-race people make up a small proportion of the population, they are over-represented at the top level of a number of meritocratic professions…” he said. “…like acting with Halle Barry, Formula 1 Racing with Lewis Hamilton; and, of course, politics with Barack Obama.”
So are hard work and talent only part of the equation? Is a good mix of genetics also crucial to success? Or are good-looking people far more likely to get on in life?