The Science of Beauty

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Updated on Nov 20, 2012

Grade Level: 9th - 12th; Type: Behavioral Science


This project explores the notion of human beauty.

Project Goals

  • Discover the factors that influence our perception of human beauty.
  • Design an experiment that shows whether or not beauty emanates “from within”.

Research Questions:

  • What determines human beauty?
  • Can beauty be measured objectively? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Does beauty really emanate “from within”?

They say all kinds of things about human beauty. It’s “in the eye of the beholder.” It’s “only skin deep.” “Looks don’t matter.” But cliches such as these do very little to cushion the harsh reality that how “beautiful” we think we are really means a lot to us. We’re not sure why beauty is so important. It just is. Some say beauty comes “from within”. In other words, it’s been said that people who are happy and have high self-esteem appear more beautiful to others than less happy people with a low self-image. Could it be that beauty is not as “skin-deep” as we thought? Let’s take a closer look.


  • Computer with internet access.
  • Digital camera
  • Color printer
  • Typical office/craft supplies (such as paper, pens & poster-board)

Experimental Procedure

  1. Read overviews of relevant topics (see bibliography).
  2. Design a questionnaire that asks volunteers how beautiful they think they are (not at that moment, but in general), on a scale of 1-10.
  3. Include additional questions regarding age, gender, ethnicity, and anything else that might provide further insight.
  4. Recruit a random sample of male and female volunteers who agree to be photographed.
  5. Photograph volunteers and have them complete the questionnaire. Carefully keep each photo with its corresponding questionnaire.
  6. Divide photos/questionnaires into two equal groups: The half who rated themselves highest and the half who rated themselves lowest.
  7. Ask a lot of people to rate the beauty of the person in each photo, on a scale of 1-10.
  8. Analyze the data.
  9. Interpret findings in a detailed report.
  10. Show results visually using charts and graphs.
  11. Display relevant photos taken throughout the course of the experiment.

Terms/Concepts: A basic knowledge of statistics would be helpful


Conceptual Statistics for Beginners (Newman, Isadore & Carol, 2005 reprint) Google search for topics such as “physical appearance” and “sexual attraction.”

Judee Shipman is a Bay Area Educational Consultant and professional writer of quality educational materials.  Her recent writing credits include (a popular and entertaining website about states), and a book called The Portable Chess Coach (Cardoza, 2006), currently available in stores.

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