The Psychology of Beauty

1. Beauty as Symmetry and Proportion- As you might have noticed in case of ancient architectural marvels, symmetry was extremely important. Whether it was the great pyramids in Egypt or the architectural wonders in Greece, symmetry and perfect dimensions played an important part in the history of aesthetics. This whole idea of symmetry also applies to every other object or person that we perceive so a person with perfectly symmetrical face would also be considered as an epitome of physical perfection. Perfectly shaped and sharp features are attractive to most people and the most beautiful faces are the ones which have very proportionate features. The same applies to the body and the low waist to hip ratio giving a curvy lower part of the body in women is considered more attractive than a straight shape which usually does not indicate fertility. As human beings are finally looking for evolutionary advantage women with a curvy shapes are considered more fertile and are thus more attractive to men. Similarly men with athletic and muscular bodies are attractive to women. However many men might not prefer extremely voluptuous or curvy women just like many women may not prefer extremely muscular men. This suggests that proportion is also about moderation or maybe human beings are more comfortable with certain moderation in what they perceive rather than excess and that way the perception of beauty may even depend on some sort of social programming.

2. Beauty as a whole rather than parts- When we consider something beautiful, we usually try to take a broad holistic view. Thus when we consider a rose as beautiful, we are less attentive towards each petal and consider the symmetry of the flower as a whole. In a similar manner, when we consider the face of a man or a woman, beauty is the composite quality that seems to represent the entire face of the individual rather than the parts or particular features. Our senses prefer a holistic view and perception of things and thus a person is considered attractive or beautiful only when all features add up to something really pleasant to the senses.

3. Beauty as projection and wish fulfillment- The perception of beauty is not only a mental process but also a deeply personal one. If say your lover has blonde hair, you might find other blonde haired people very attractive because you tend to project your inner fancies on to other people. The ‘he’ looks like my lover or ‘she’ looks like my lover is a common syndrome in our perception of beauty and people who are remotely similar to our mates are suddenly more beautiful to us than others. The same projection applies in case of selecting a mate who resembles a parent. If a man looks like your father or a member of the family he is obviously far more attractive to you than to others. The wish fulfillment theory is also equally true and when we want to be like someone in terms of talents or certain qualities, we naturally consider that person as absolutely perfect and beautiful. Some teenagers may idolize popular actors or actresses and the need to be like them also determines their own perception of beauty.

4. Beauty as innocence and charm- No one can deny that a charming personality with social confidence can be far more attractive than a dull personality. A person who has the inherent ability to attract individuals with the sheer force of personality and presence is considered highly attractive. In some way there may be an association between good looks and social confidence and sometimes individuals with good looks are also socially most accepted and thus more confident. Individuals with baby-face features with high or defined cheekbones and certain innocence on their faces are usually considered very attractive by both the sexes. Beauty is advantageous in social adaptation and good looking people are thus socially successful as well, as they get support and positive assessment from other people. However the opposite in also true and sometimes good looking women and even men can become extremely self-conscious and fail to develop adequate self confidence. Good looks can in certain cases become an impediment as good looking women who are also intelligent may be judged more on the basis of their looks rather than their intelligence and this is sometimes a sad fact in modern society.

5. Beauty as a product of culture and society- This is an accepted fact. The concept of beauty seems to change with time as society changes and the perception of beauty varies in different cultures. Dark skin is considered very attractive in Western societies and whiter skin is considered as attractive in Eastern societies, because of the element of novelty in both the cases. Feet and hair of women are important features in Eastern cultures whereas in the West, the woman’s lips, and hips are considered important. The breasts of women are important indicators of beauty in all cultures and men’s body and chin or jaw and certain masculine sharpness are also considered as attractive. Studies have indicated that women however tend to prefer dominant looking men during the first follicular stage in their reproductive cycle but prefer men with softer more feminine features when they are in their menstrual and ovulation stages. This may have some evolutionary advantage as men with feminine soft natures and faces are considered as more stable and more family oriented than men who have extreme masculinity or a sort of raw appeal. This is however too generalized and there are individual differences as well.

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