Does physical attractiveness matter?
The social semantic that everyone is beautiful in their own way is deeply rooted in the psyches of modern society. While comforting, recent evidence from scientific studies is proving that our nature as a sexual carbon-based lifeform – the tenets of beauty hold true. And that is, sadly, superficial and skin-deep.
There are a number of plausible theories of what makes someone attractive. Some believe that attraction is purely biological. Others think that we’re attracted to same characteristics as our opposite sex-parent. Others think it has to do with emotional compatibility.
And although attraction comes in the form of intelligence, companionship or security; many psychologist agree that when it comes to physical attractiveness there is no substitute, and a person who may be attracted to someone else’s humour or intelligence will generally not find that person physically attractive for those reasons. Our biology strongly dictates what we regard as physically attractive.
Physical attractiveness greatly influences how people are treated by others. In terms of social and economic benefit, especially for women, there’s no denying that our natural charisma and looks, or lack thereof, controls our fate in more ways than we might realize.
Physically attractive people have all the fun.
For one, attractive people are known to get away with crime more often than a less attractive individual. In the eyes of the jury, even with damning evidence, something about good looks flips a switch that automatically makes us perceive that person as ‘better’ than he or she deserves. Physical attractiveness in a person has also been linked to these individuals being more often on the receiving end of favours from strangers, family and friends alike.
Attractive people also tend to receive better treatment since their young, developing years and tend to be more positive. Therefore the association of attractive individuals with kindness and overall likability is formed. And aside from people’s natural preference for attractiveness, it’s probably no coincidence that the main protagonists of movies are usually played by good-looking stars while the reverse roles are played by their opposites.
Even days-old babies naturally stare and smile at more attractive individuals which shows that physical attractiveness is influenced by far more than cultural factors. The consistency of bias in favour of attractive individuals is apparent and to not accept is self-denial at best.
Cosmetic surgery is an option for many.
Physical attractiveness is surprisingly similar across cultures and women go to surgeons for plastic nose surgery, breast augmentation and double eyelids which are regarded as the standard of beauty. And while the dangers of undergoing the knife are real the benefits of a successful operation is often seen as a life-changing event that improves not only their self-esteem but also the better treatment from society.
Of all the surgeries, women who undergo breast augmentation have, on average, the most positive emotional outcomes. Also, women tend to be generally more satisfied with the results of plastic surgeries more than men are.
People are biologically wired for physical attractiveness.
Why is this you may ask? It is likely linked to our evolutionary predisposition to seek healthy mates, and beauty is a reliable indicator. Like how long hair is an indicator of long-term health and youth.
A study by the University of Stirling found that men were more attracted to feminine features like small jaws and fuller cheeks which was regarded as an indicator of youth and fertility. Women on the other hand were attracted to men with stronger jaws and look beefier. In the study, heterosexual men were shown photos of two versions of the same person; one with feminized features and the made more masculine. The results affirm what we’ve always known: that, overwhelmingly; men like feminine-looking women and women like masculine-looking men.
Another study conducted at Zhejiang university demonstrated the correlation between facial attractiveness and its influence on fairness consideration during social interactions. In the test, 21 young males participated in a bargaining game where the goal was to accumulate as much money as they could by either accepting or rejecting an offer made to them, represented by photos of attractive and unattractive women.
The participants were that they were dealing with actual women. When presented with photos of attractive women, the participants were more willing to accept an unfair offer more often than when presented with photos of unattractive women at a ratio of 1.2:1 – about 20% more often.
Sex Appeal can backfire.
However, on the flip-side of the coin is the social discrimination that could entail physical attractiveness. Because attractive people tend to be treated better there is the perception that this leads to spoilt individuals who are lazy, less intelligent and unreliable.
Physical attractiveness can also spark jealousies of others, which may result in discrimination in the hiring process (beautiful people are often regarded as immature at working life as their spoilt. See where this is going?), underestimation of their abilities or false assumptions of their personality. Some employers may simply not hire an attractive person simply because they feel that their social standing within the company would be compromised. Jealousies could also lead to murder.
In the dating scene, physically attractive people tend to be targets for short-term flings and romantic relationships. People who meet with others simply for their looks are often thrill seekers who aren’t interested in settling down, and attractive people are often cheated when their ‘partner’.