The Science of Beauty

We all know that gorgeous people get preferential treatment. It’s a not-too-pretty fact of life long attributed to the halo effect, a type of cognitive bias or judgment discrepancy where our impression of a person dictates the assumptions we make about that person. For example, people will readily blame an unattractive person, over an attractive one, for a crime. Now there’s evidence that beauty and intelligence (and other positive characteristics) go hand in hand. Evolutionary psychologists have opened a tantalizing line of inquiry into age-old questions about beauty, and not a moment too soon. Psychologists observe that men and women alike appear more concerned than ever with attractiveness and perceived physical imperfections. That makes sense when research shows that companies who hire attractive people enjoy higher revenues. The public would rather deal with a good-looking shop clerk rather than a less than appealing one. This preference for attractiveness can be found across domains—politics, media, the legal field, to name a few.

The Perception of What Is Beautiful

It’s no surprise that the pretty girl will hands down get favored over others for that coveted job opening. And there are some universal standards of beauty across the world. Symmetry in the face and the body, plus clear skin and youthfulness are preferred traits; and heterosexual men desire women with hourglass shaped figures as well as feminine features. These characteristics are markers of health and fertility. However, for women, looks only go so far. While heterosexual women also seek symmetry as well as height in men, they are most concerned with status and resources. Will this man help me raise my future children? That’s the difference.

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