Why is attractiveness important?
Love can be sometimes, logical. Science has been able to give us some trends that may predict who we pick. Of course all our behavior is influenced by our lens of culture, family values, religion and social backdrop but the following truths have emerged.
Both men and women pick attractiveness as the number one criteria. Numerous studies point to a social perception we might have when looking at attractive face. It’s most likely built into us, honed by thousands of years of evolution. Think about it this way, when you meet someone you have no clue about them. Our ancestors relied on physical cues. If he had a face full of sores and was emaciated you might think that this person was sick, unhealthy. Do you want to sit next to the guy sneezing and coughing on the train? No. We avoid people who do not look fit or healthy. The sale of acne medications relies on this very assumption...
We also like symmetry- both sides of the body in equal proportion. That is we like when things match up according to what our brains tell us they should look like. Many bird species exhibit this behavior during mating. The males will fluff and puff and the female will look at their arrangement of feathers eliminating the ones that are not ideal or symmetrical. Imagine a face where one side is different than the other. Hundreds of college students in experiments have done just that. They reject them. I’ll save you from the review of the evidence but symmetry seems to be related to defective genes. Scientists think we have a screening device that allows us to rule out partners who may have defects so our DNA has an edge in survival.
We have a built in bias towards attractive others. Attractive people are viewed as more healthy, poised, intelligent, sexually warm, and sociable. We call it the ‘halo effect.’ Our brain scans all the qualities we might associate with health and good looks and we give attractive people a sort of edge. I’ve often called it the ‘Ted Bundy effect’- He was a charming and handsome man who lured women to his den and sadistically murdered them. Many anti-social personalities rely on keeping up their looks which they know can mask who they really are!
With regard to faces men like childlike qualities- large eyes and pouty lips. Women like a strong jaw and strong cheek bones. So much do we rely on this factor that we are willing to undergo surgeries to prefect our outer qualities. Attractiveness is not only a facial cue but can be related to our physical structure. There’s a reason we diet, wear control top pantyhose and work out in gyms. For men it’s the hip to waist ratio which appear to be universal. There should be a large difference- in other words they want a waist. Few have delved into this universal bias but I believe it when all three line up it signals something to a male; you are either obese or pregnant. There are plenty of men who like their full figured gals so I opt for pregnancy- our ancestral fathers wanted mates who were not already pregnant. Another fact about attractiveness needs to be discussed. Each sex overestimates how important those qualities actually are. For example if I gave men a series of pictures of various men and asked them which man a typical woman might desire he would pick the muscle bound weightlifter. Wrong! The same effect occurs when women are asked what men prefer. No, the Barbie doll is not their ideal. Nevertheless many of us on a quest to improve ourselves based on a false assumption.
There is another difference between men and women. Women are able to moderate attractiveness by cues of status or what we might call ‘wealth’ indicators. That’s why we don’t flinch when we see some young sexy babe on the arm of a guy old enough to be her father. We immediately know that he’s rich. The more pressure on a woman to provide the more apt she might pick wealth over good looks. She can trade her physical assets for his money. Crass as it sounds, science backs it up.
Finally there is a curious gender difference that no one has ever explained, at least not fully. Both As attractive as we want our partners to be we tend to match up, that tis we find mates who are just about as attractive as we are. Here is the hitch; when asking women who they would choose for casual sex partners women choose upwards; they will chose the most handsome man. Men will be a lot less choosey. Remember the old classic tune Don’t the Girls get prettier at Closing Time. Well it was not only a song but a research study done decades ago.
Now comes the strangest part of the equation. Men do desire the most attractive women for casual sex. There is no market for ugly strippers. I know of no web site featuring fifty year old women in the nude (please don’t tell me if you know of one because I couldn’t bare it- pun intended). BUT- and it’s a big BUT – when choosing marriage partners men will NEVER (normal everyday men, not the Donald Trumps) pick an overly attractive female. Men simply do not look for wives at the strip club. And that my friends is another story, perhaps the most interesting one of all….