What makes people attractive? One would think it depends for
each person, but actually many of us have similar opinions about this.
Beauty is something that has tried to be defined for centuries.
It used to be said of beauty, that it is something that is easy to recognize
but hard to explain.
The earliest Western theory of beauty can be found on
Ancient Greek works from the pre-Socratic period, like Pythagoras, who saw a
strong connection between attractiveness and mathematics. He noted that objects
that were proportioned with the golden ratio were usually seen as more
beautiful. Indeed, these mathematical functions were also featured on the many
studies of Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance artists. While Aristotle
actually found a link between the beautiful and virtue, arguing ¨Virtue aims at
Beauty standards have changed considerably over time, based
on changing cultural values. Historically, paintings show an extensive range of
diverse standards for beauty. However, people who are relatively young, with
smooth skin, well-proportioned bodies, and regular features, have consistently
been acknowledged as the most attractive throughout history.
But in the 18th century, these mathematical researches
relating to beauty started to cease. when philosophers like Edmund Burke and
David Hume stated that beauty was subjectively-defined. For Hume, beauty was
“no quality in things themselves; it exists merely in the mind that
contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.”
The idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that
people have different ideas of beauty, thus they are not able to agree on who
is beautiful and who is not, was for long a dominant view in much of philosophy
Nonetheless, psychologists have argued that there might be objectively
defined criteria of attractiveness. Theorists highlight the impact on judgement
of beauty of social and cultural norms and emphasize the idea that social
stereotypes like the ¨attractiveness is good¨ bias create their own reality. Another
idea that is actually really popular in scientific circles is that beauty Is a
reliable indicator of fertility and health.
These is a long list with several factors that play a role
on what men desire on women, but there is one thing they all have in common; they
are an index of health and youth. Men like smooth skin, long shiny hair and small
waists. And they are most likely interested in symmetry.
Younger women are found more attractive by men, as their
youth is a sign of fertility and of greater reproductive value than older
women. This concerns to the number of children a woman is yet to have on her
reproductive course. Evolutionary psychologists agree this is the reason why
men tend to prefer younger women, despite the law of their age of consent in
Men look for healthy women to be good mothers and take care
of their new offspring. Another sign that indicates this is long hair. When
people suffer from diseases the body takes nutrients from non-vitals parts of
the body, such as the hair. Therefore, often women who suffer from illnesses
hint short dull hair. For past years, older women were more likely to cut their
hair shorter to conceal unhealthy hair.
A small waist is at the same time something men desire and
find attractive in women. It has been suggested women are healthier if they
have a smaller waist to hip ratio, as these show signs of fertility and high
amounts of reproductive hormones. Amusingly, a woman´s waist size is prone to reduce
during ovulation, which is the period of the time when a woman is most fertile.
Unconsciously, men seek healthy and reproductively fertile.
In fact, Kurzban and Weeden (2005) found the agreed-upon
mate values for both sexes were related almost entirely due to observable
physical attributes like age, facial features, height and not those less
observable characteristics like religious views, education and their ideas
Men are seen as less aesthetically pleasing than women, as
shown by a study using female and male raters of pictures (Barber, N., 1995).
This suggests men´s physical attractiveness wasn´t considered as a very
important factor, as it was for women, during our evolutionary past. Even
though physical appeal is not that critical, women still show a tendency to reject
short men, baldness, along with others.
Women find physical attractiveness more essential during the
first stages of dating but then focus on other characteristics as intelligence,
generosity and most importantly power and social status. Most women do not seek
for unemployed, drunk or financially unstable men. They are attracted to men to
signs of high social positions like eating at classy restaurants, and driving
fancy cars (Hitsch, G., Hortacsu, A., & Ariely, D., 2010). Possibly, that
is the reason why men still pay the bills on dates.
The evolutionary explanation for this is that women are
likely to find wealthy men as adequate to care for them and their offspring,
while she is pregnant and recovering.