Beauty in humans and animals mostly refers to an aesthetic appearance that is often sexually attractive to the opposite sex. Broadly, one can distinguish two kinds of beauty:
- Objective beauty (See also: Category:Aesthetics)
- Mathematical/geometric beauty such as symmetry, smoothness, elegance, or more generally, simplicity.
- Sexually dimorphic beauty, or arbitrary and even exaggerated body shapes, such as large female breasts or male penises, highly specific shapes of noses (e.g. upturned nose in females), i.e. few millimeters of bone, dimples on back or cheeks, and also complex coloration patterns in birds. These kinds of beauty often cannot fully be explained by simplicity because they have seemingly unnecessary specificity or complexity. Either there are functional constraints or correlated characters preventing a simpler shape, or runaway sexual selection resulted in arbitrary shapes becoming sexually attractive. The relation to health only seems to be relevant for extreme cases like disfigurement, certain syndromes and contagious skin rashes and the like. Beauty and health are rather unrelated when disregarding these extremes, but slight fitness advantages could have still initiated runaway sexual selection which then lead to a narrowing and strengthening of mate preferences and their corresponding sexually dimorphic features.
- Subjective beauty: Individual preferences resulting from individual emotional experiences or variance in development of neuronal circuitry for inherited sexual preferences regarding objective beauty (see above) at individual level.
Objective beauty has likely mostly evolved by innate preference of animals for simplicity (aesthetic sexual selection), i.e. our ancestors tended to choose objectively beautiful mates and hence our species evolved to be beautiful and beauty became an important factor of attraction. This was possibly reinforced, narrowed and overcomplicated by feedback loops like Fisherian runaway or sensory bias. Contrary to social constructionism, beauty is actually mostly objective, which is especially true for very physically unattractive people.
Not just looks, but also behavior can be beautiful, such as facial expressivity, physiognomy, as well as tone and clarity of voice. E.g. attractive behavior is elegant, has poise and wit etc. The opposite is awkwardness, lethargy, stuttering, violation of norms etc.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Price T, Langen T. 1992. Evolution of correlated characters. [Abstract]
- Fuller, R. C., Houle, D., & Travis, J. 2005. Sensory Bias as an Explanation for the Evolution of Mate Preferences. [Abstract]