Advantages of Beauty 2
The 'Why' of Beauty
(Before reading this article you may want to read part one
Advantages of Beauty
Evolution and beauty
People instinctively know that the beautiful people enjoy advantages that the rest of us don't have but generally they don't know why.
The desire to be physically attractive is a major driving force behind the cosmetic, fashion,and health industries.
Most people recognise that the beautiful people benefit from their looks in many ways but people also believe that ideals of attractiveness vary widely from culture to culture.
However, studies have shown that there is actually surprisingly consistent agreement across cultures as to what constitutes an attractive face.
Women utilize cosmetics, skin-creams, and hair shape and colour to enhance their beauty because they know it is in their best interests to doing so.
Attraction seems to be a partly instinctual/partly learned response but few people understand the ‘Why?’ of it all.
The fields of evolutionary anthropology and psychology have investigated human beauty and physical attractiveness for the past four decades and interesting models of human behaviour have arisen from that research.
From an evolutionary perspective any genetic trait that humans or other animals develop that enhances their ability to survive will be passed on to the next generation.
When animals mate they tend to compete for mates with those features that will ensure the production of good offspring. In the animal world it is the male who is usually the prettiest, or most colourful, or the one with the showiest display.
However, humans are an anomaly in the animal world. With us, it is the female whose beauty is on display and judged most important.
Over the millennia we humans have developed a whole range of abilities to determine the acceptability of a mate. Women can actually determine the differences in male DNA through their sense of smell.
Studies have shown that women respond to men whose DNA is very different from their own. It is thought that this ability evolved because the children of two people with very different DNA have more advantageous immune systems.
These abilities are run by unconscious programmes. A woman doesn’t think “I’ll check out this guy’s DNA by getting close enough to smell him”. She simply finds a particular smell attractive or not, and so it is with the perception of beauty.
Beauty is a cue to fitness and the ability to produce healthy children. From a males perspective he will want to find a female who is very fertile with many years of reproduction ahead of her. She will have to exhibit traits that indicate health and vitality so that the children will also be healthy and capable of surviving and in turn reproducing.
One of the advantages to being beautiful is that you will be in demand from the opposite sex, especially if you are female.
It's all about sex!!
If men chose only women who were past their child bearing age then they would be extremely unsuccessful at producing children and passing on their genes to future generations. Between the ages of 30 and 34 female fertility rates declines to 85% of the fertility rate of 20-24 year olds, and between 40-44 it is down to 35%. This is one reason why youth has a universal appeal.
For men, the passive viewing of beautiful female faces triggers a response in the part of the brain connected to reward behaviour, gambling and thrill-seeking. It is obviously important to us.
Men look for women who are young and fertile because they are the best bet for successful reproduction. So how do we tell? Research has shown that men are attracted to women who ideally have large eyes, small chins and noses, full lips, high eyebrows, smooth, clear skin, lustrous full-hair and a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7.
As beauty therapists and plastic surgeons realize these are the areas that women are most interested in enhancing. Any book or magazine that discusses the use of cosmetics is basically a manual on how to augment these evolutionary features that are indicators of fertility and health.
Women know that there are advantages of beauty even if we pay lip service to the belief that it is what is on the inside that counts.
Now of course you will say that women don’t pursue beauty just to attract men. I agree. If you shipped all the men on earth to Mars women would still pursue beauty, for a variety of reasons.
These reasons include peer pressure, female competition for mates (even if they have been removed), social exchange, self esteem and the pursuit of status. Women know consciously and sub-consciously the advantages of beauty.
In the idea of social exchange, human social life is viewed as a marketplace where certain individual qualities (e.g. personality, beauty, education) are exchanged with other individuals.
We know there are advantages of beauty. Beauty has high value in the marketplace as it heavily influences the exchange process.
Like the fruit market above, where the perfect fruit attracts a premium and blemished fruit a lower price, human beauty is a commodity with a similar pricing structure. Humans treat beautiful people differently (usually better) than the less beautiful. Therefore it pays to be beautiful.
From the point of view of self esteem, the judgements other people make about us affect our view of ourselves. We all want to be positively evaluated, praised, patted on the back and told we are OK. A positive view from others elevates our self esteem. Beauty is a major component of how others evaluate us.
Humans make positive evaluations of other people on looks alone, believing that beautiful people are friendlier, more sociable, outgoing and a host of other attributes, so it is in our best interests to appear at our most beautiful because other people’s view of us (especially our peers) will boost or deflate our feelings about ourselves. One of the many advantages of beauty. Also if we believe we look good, we feel good.
Humans have been affected by status throughout history. The evidence of status goods in all cultures since the dawn of agriculture attests to this. Even chimpanzees, our closest relatives, are status conscious.
In recent experiments some chimpanzees were given special items and privileges not conferred on the rest of the group. This conferred high status on these individuals. It was found that the other chimpanzees, when presented with photos of the entire band, preferred to look at photos of the high status individuals. Those in the high status group also preferred to look at other high status chimps.
Are we any different? Look at the success of celebrity gossip magazines.
We seem to be coded to seek out status to some degree, and considering that status usually confers other benefits, such as wealth and influence, from an evolutionary viewpoint it would certainly be advantageous for the maintenance and viability of children.
Research has found that for long-term relationships women rate status/wealth or the potential to acquire it (i.e. ambition) as the number one trait they are looking for.
From the heart
You have to remember though that given all of the above, we are still talking in generalizations. Humans don’t fall in love with generalizations, they fall in love with individuals and we fall for a whole host of reasons other than beauty.
We all know that there are advantages of beauty but what percentage of people are actually beautiful? Would supermodels make the money they make if beauty was extremely common. It isn't. Perhaps 10% of the population is good looking.
If you have average looks and can raise your beauty rating by one or two points then you will start to see the advantages of beauty. However, enhancing our beauty doesn’t hurt and we know from the research that there are great advantages of beauty. Most of us like to look good because of these internal and external benefits.
Since beauty is all-pervasive and the pursuit of beauty will be with us as long as we are human then we might as well use knowledge to our advantage.
By understanding the evolutionary underpinnings we can understand why we do what we do and hopefully be smarter in how we do it.
If you are female and want to see the advantages of beauty in your own life by creating a beautiful body go to the
perfect female body.
If you are male and want to see the advantages of beauty in your own life by creating a beautiful body go to the
perfect male body.
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