Poets, philosophers and writers have all mused at some point on the nature of beauty, but none of them have ever quite managed to pin it down. Whether describing an incredible view, a rose or a pretty face it’s hard to know precisely what it is that makes those things beautiful and why they provoke the reactions in us that they do.
While poetry has only really waxed lyrical on the subject though, it seems that science is much more well suited to telling us what beauty really is in a concrete sense. This is particularly true when looking at a beautiful face, our reaction to which science views as being shaped by evolution and biology; and by understanding this it may be possible to change the way that we are viewed by others. Are you scientifically beautiful? Read on to find out.
The Purpose of Beauty
To understand how to be beautiful, it’s important to first of all address why we find people beautiful at all, and according to evolutionary psychology it all comes down to sex. At the end of the day, we find certain people beautiful because natural selection has suggested that they look like a good partner to have our children with. Our ‘prime directive’ if you will is to ensure our own survival and that of our offspring, and so we will search for partners who will provide the right genetic material and the right resources to make this possible. As such then, beauty and health are very closely related and the people we find beautiful are the ones who are healthy candidates for having children with but also those who are a good match.
To this end, symmetry is one of the most important things we look for on an unconscious level when deciding if someone is attractive or not. Scientists believe this is because a symmetrical face suggests strong DNA that is able to replicate itself without errors – which would also result in healthier children with a lower risk of genetic mutation. Research backs up this theory too, and if you look at the celebrities that we most often rate as being highly attractive, usually they have above-average symmetry to thank for it. If you’re currently rather a-symmetrical then you can also look into disguising this with makeup or non-invasive cosmetic procedures.
We also look for other cues about health which suggests a partner who will pass on healthy genes, but also one who will be around for longer to help us raise our offspring. There are all kinds of things that we look for to this end, but these include good skin (suggesting a good diet and circulation), healthy teeth, youth, good hair, a healthy weight and good muscle tone. By simply becoming healthier then, you can make yourself more attractive.
Men in particular will also look for fertility in their partner and take a few cues from the female body to discern this. A narrow waist with ‘child bearing hips’ for instance is considered highly attractive, while so too are large breasts which also suggest fertility. So women, that means padded bras can help you to attract more men… but you knew that already.
But if that’s all true, then why is beauty still ‘in the eye of the beholder?’. If you can scientifically predict beauty, then why will different people find different people attractive? The answer may come down to two factors, the first being genetic compatibility. Studies have shown that we tend to find people more attractive if they look more like us as this suggests that they will be more compatible. While you might not realise it then, you may be unconsciously attracted to your partner because they look like you. There’s not much you can do to look more like someone, but this could be a consideration when deciding on who to approach. It also suggests rather depressingly that the ‘average’ looking individual will be more widely appreciated than someone with more unique features…
Another reason for variation could be the cultural and social factors that determine beauty. While we are programmed to find certain things attractive, we can also ‘learn’ to find particular people more attractive than others and television and magazines have a lot to answer for in this regard.