Physical attractiveness: Between myth and reality

Physical attractiveness: Between myth and reality

People are normally instructed on the supremacy of inner beauty and warned never to trust appearances. But if we were to look deeper into the characteristics of human behavior, we find that physical appearance accounts for much more than expected, especially when it comes to forming first impressions.

Enhancing appearance through grooming, attire or medical procedures such as plastic surgery also counts as a major self-promotion tactic nowadays. But how effective can reliance on appearance be?

The “what is beautiful is good” effect

As humans, we typically tend to associate good qualities with highly attractive people. This type of behavior has been accounted for in a number of psychological studies and is formally known as the “what is beautiful is good” effect.

Believe it or not, this effect has even been accounted for in courts as judges in a study proved to be more lenient in their verdicts with attractive defendants than with less attractive ones!

A universal definition of attractiveness?

Yet again, attractiveness in itself may sound like a very relative concept. Researchers have tried to look into the subject from a scientific perspective, asking a group of young men to rate photographs of young women.

After analyzing the results, they noticed that the women rated as most attractive fell into two distinct categories: ‘cute’ and ‘mature’. Women in the cute category were characterized by small childlike features including a small nose and widely spaced eyes (Emma Stone would perfectly fits this category) while those in the mature group had a more edgy look including high eyebrows and well defined cheekbones (Angelina Jolie is the ultimate prototype of this category).

Attractiveness vs. social skills

In addition to that, ‘attractive’ people are believed by others to be more socially adept, outgoing and popular. But is this really the case? If we were to think about it from a different perspective, people tend to respond more positively to highly attractive people which in turn may create the illusion of them having more social skills than others.

Does all this mean we should start focusing solely on appearances from now on? Not at all. However, being aware of the importance of attractiveness in the context of everyday life may help us understand the social world more and be more observant in our interactions.

Cover credit: Google Art Project

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