Consensus and contention in beauty judgment

Maria Pombo, Aleksandra Igdalova, Denis G. Pelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Variance across participants is at the heart of the centuries-old debate about the universality of beauty. Beauty's belonging to the eye of the beholder implies large interindividual variance, while beauty as a universal object property implies the opposite. To characterize the variance at the center of this debate, we selected two quartets with either high- or low-variance images with high typicality and a given mean beauty. The quartets have high or low variance across 50 participants (group variance) and correspondingly high or low variance across images of a quartet for each participant (quartet variance). We asked 52 new participants to estimate their own mean and quartet variance. Participants successfully predicted their quartet mean but failed to predict their quartet variance. Though invisible, beauty variance is essential to prediction, both in theory and in practice. The quartets show that mean beauty is not the whole story — beauty variance is heterogeneous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110213
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 19 2024


  • Social interaction
  • Social sciences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Consensus and contention in beauty judgment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this