According to anthropologist, Hellen Fischer, Beauty on a general level is defined by the object of beauty having a symetrical face or facial features. It is moreover concieved that it is innate in our subconcious to precieve someone with a near perfect symmetry in their face would be considdered more attractive than someone without facial symetry.
I have facial scars, and therein, my face is not symmetrical. I am considered by most women (facial wize) a 5.5 of 10 on their attractiveness rating. The scars were in part battle damage from being a veteran (I caught some concrete schrapenal from a bullet that hit a concrete barrier in a bunker I was in...), however, a younger picture of myself is considered more attractive than my current facial features.
However, besides symety, other preceptions of beauty are established by familiar rating and societal influence... Such as men whom prefer plus sized women over slender women... Those men perhaps have an affinity because they found beauty due to family members (yes the oedepus complex...) they have found attractive (particularly their mothers) that are of plus size... But that is just a narrow assumption nonetheless.
The point is:
Half of what is percieved as beauty is subconcious and the other half is due to influence gained by contact with others and their preferences. More or less, half learned and half influenced.
Yes, we do inherently know what beauty is. Small differences like fatness or tanning maybe societal, but overall, symmetry is what is beautiful. People who are born with the golden ratio are also attractive because it demonstrates that they're really healthy. Healthiness means better genes and better genes equate to a better survival rate. Contrary to popular belief, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. Studies have shown that people with different backgrounds can generally agree what is beautiful. However, there are always the outliers and people who will disagree; they are a part of the minority.
I think we make up our own minds. I know I certainly made up my own mind... or I firmly believe that I did.
We can't control who we're attracted to, we just go with what our brain tells us. I think our brain is wired for this during our teen years so there is certainly an argument that our brain can be wired to perceive something as beautiful when others wouldn't depending on the society we live in.
I think it's both: guys are visual and go for youth, however the visual standard may depend on culture, hence what is considered the specific 'standard' of beauty is something which is influenced by upbringing (i.e. Among the Khoisan, Steatopygia is regarded as a sign of beauty link ). For girls, I have not got much of a clue, however, the fact that girls love genuine confidence I think is universal, as well as leadership and status
i believe we're told what we should find beautiful through media. like putting people with a certain look in a desirable position.
i consider myself lucky. my brothers are into things that go against what the media wants. my oldest brother likes bigger women. my second oldest brother likes older women. what I learned from that is that it's alright to like whatever you want
I believe it has to steam from our instinct to reproduce. So most guys like women with big boobs and wide hips due to the fact they will bear our children better. Girls like bigger stronger men since our offspring will be just that.
There are many theories about what beauty is or how we "discover" beauty.
I think it's a mix of lot of things...
I often read people are attracted to symmetry... it's all about the right proportion. Also same say you are attracted to a face that kind of looks like yours... or has a similar build. Just like personal preference. It also depends on the things and people how "form" you... that you grow up with. And of course it's a matter of culture and time... The public's or society's option on beauty is part of it too.
I think in the end we do make up our own mind... all this things helped and kind of 'formed' us but it's our mind and history what makes us think of our version of beauty.
Some of it is evolutional (we want someone who is healthy to reproduce with to create healthy children) so we subconsciously look for facial symmetry, no blemishes, rosy cheeks, full lips, bright eyes, healthy hair, proportional bodies, etc.
But most of it is based on societal ideals, whether we realize it or not. It's just that these ideals are pushed on us from birth, almost, and we internalize them. It's not necessarily such a horrible thing, but it's true.