Understanding the Science Behind Beauty

What is it that makes some things ‘beautiful’ and others less so? It’s not the name for sure – as we all know that a ‘rose by any other name would still smell as sweet’. And we’re all told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though it does seem that there are many cases where the beholders all agree on what’s attractive and what isn’t…

So what is it that’s motivating these decisions? Why is it that some things seem so much more attractive than others, and once we understand this, how can we go about making sure that we are one of the things that people find good looking?


The first thing to understand, is that a lot of beauty is linked closely to our evolutionary heritage. The people we find beautiful or attractive are of course the ones that we’re more likely to go after, and as such, procreate with. Our appreciation of beauty then has developed over the years in order to guide our actions and ensure that we choose the right mates to bear our offspring with.

As such then, most of the indicators of beauty also just so happen to be indicators of vitality, of virility and of health. This is why we tend to find younger people attractive – because they are more likely to be fertile. It’s also why men tend to find women with wider hips and larger breasts attractive. Women for their part meanwhile will tend to go after men who look muscular (suggesting high testosterone), and who would be able to provide for and protect both them and their children.

It’s not just our appreciation of bodies that is dictated by our survival instinct though – this also influences which kinds of faces we find attractive. For instance, did you know that most celebrities have abnormally symmetrical faces? This is something that we find attractive because it suggests healthy cells – they have been able to split and reproduce without imperfections. Some women will also find scars attractive on men – because it suggests they’ve been in fights and still survived.

The Eye of the Beholder

So where does this ‘eye of the beholder’ stuff come in? Well another surprising statistic is that we are more likely to look like our partners than other members of the population. In other words, we are attracted to people who look like us: with the reason being that it suggests a high genetic compatibility and ensures that more of our own genes will survive. If we marry someone who looks more like us, our children will look more like us too.


Culture also plays a role in dictating what’s attractive however, which is why attractive women were once thought to be larger and are now thought to be thinner. The media here has largely affected our interpretation of what constitutes ‘attractive’ and fashion and celebrities also play a large role in this.

To look attractive then, you need to be fashionable, healthy and similar to the people you are trying to attract. Then again, you could just decide on what you want to look like and then find someone who’s happy with you the way you are. The science says they’re out there…

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