Beauty in humans and animals refers to aesthetic appearance, an aspect of looks. Beauty is often sexually attractive to the opposite sex and it is important for social status in humans. Some believe beauty and ugliness are subjective, but beauty is mostly objective, especially in case of very ugly people and very beautiful people. Physical attractiveness strongly predicts initial romantic interest and moderately based on others' ratings, to the same degree in men and women. A single glance of 100 milliseconds is sufficient to form reliable, consensual first impressions about physical attractiveness. Beauty is misperceived to be strongly related to various positive traits such as intelligence and health, which is called the beauty-is-good stereotype, a certain kind of halo effect.
Objective vs subjective[edit | edit source]
One can distinguish two kinds of beauty:
Objective beauty: Objective preferences are not acquired by experience, but consist of inherited circuits in the brain, so everyone mostly agrees on it.
- Simplicity: The brain analyzes the mathematical/geometric beauty of percepts, such as symmetry, smoothness, averageness, elegance, or generally simplicity. The brain appears to prefer this because it is easy to process which appears to be common to many higher animals (processing fluency theory of aesthetic pleasure).
- Patterns: What is objectively regarded as beautiful or sexually attractive may go beyond simplicity, namely in sexually dimorphism, e.g. secondary sex characteristics. Such preferences often involve seemingly arbitrary, exaggerated and/or very specific patterns (few millimeters of bone). For example even blind men prefer women's hourglass shaped body which means they are born with a preference for a particular pattern in the opposite sex. Other examples are large and firm female breasts or large penises, certain nose shapes, a robust mandible, protruding cheekbones, compact midface and hunter eyes in men, as well as dimples on back or cheeks, muscle tone, cleavage, thigh gap, abs crack, six pack (see also aesthetics), and complex coloration patterns and ornament in some higher animals.
- Subjective beauty: Subjective preferences for beauty are acquired by individual emotional experience or mere exposure, or result from variance in development of the inherited neuronal circuitry for detecting objective beauty as described above.
Evolution of beauty[edit | edit source]
Animal's preference for objective beauty as mathematical simplicity is a fluke of evolution, resulting from the actually useful preference for order and predictability (processing fluency). Due to this preference, animals tended to choose mathematically beautiful mates and hence species evolved to be beautiful (aesthetic sexual selection) and beauty became an important factor of sexual attraction. Some deep sea fish may be particularly ugly due to being blind.
Simple and elegant body shapes can, however, also result from optimizing resource efficiency or resilience. This explains why even blind animals and plants are often beautiful. Though, some flowers may have also evolved beauty and scents to be particularly salient to insects which spread their pollen. And also in many animals, beauty has the same function of conspicuously advertising oneself to the opposite sex. For this reason, human females can use flowers as adornment to attract males since flowers happen to fulfill the same function. Attraction to secondary sexual characteristics also increases fitness because seeking out the opposite sex is conductive for reproduction.
Feedback loops in sexual selection such as Fisherian runaway and sensory bias can explain why secondary sexual characteristics are overcomplicated and enlarged in some animals, and they can also explain the immense sexual attraction to very specific shapes (few millimeters of bone) despite them having barely any relevance for survival except "social survival". Feedback loops can also explain phenomena like women readily copulating with sexy men despite being coy otherwise, as well as love on first sight, oneitis, uncanny valley and disgust of other races (which often seems to drive racism).
Another explanation of beauty is that it acts as an honest signal of e.g. health, mutational load and intelligence, can thus signal good genes overall. These two opposing views the Good Geners vs Fisherians lead to significant academic rivalry since the 1990s, but the good genes hypotheses has largely been refuted since. The relation between beauty to health and ability is only relevant for certain cases like disfigurement, certain syndromes and skin rashes and the like. Beauty and health are only weakly related when disregarding these extremes, but slight fitness advantages could have also initiated feedback loops in sexual selection.
Historically, parents have been heavily involved in their offspring's mate choices, so quite likely feedback loops in sexual aesthetic selection have also shaped parents to be choosy about looks (sexy grandchildren), and, due to the similarity of socializing with potential partners for their offspring with socializing in general, people have evolved to be choosy about looks of the people they socialize with, explaining why looks influence men's social status somewhat.
Beautiful behavior[edit | edit source]
Not just looks, but also behavior can be beautiful and sexually attractive, such as facial expressiveness, gait, physiognomy, tone and clarity of the voice, or more generally charisma. Analogously to objective beauty described above, beautiful behavior has elegance, confidence, poise and wit, i.e. it can be processed fluently.
The opposite is awkwardness, lethargy, stuttering, violation of norms, autism, inappropriate laughter, delayed response, anxiety etc. Aesthetic sexual selection possibly played a role in the evolution of these behaviors, especially as they lack obvious survival value despite being socially advantageous. E.g. in some birds, fish and other species one can observe animals (especially male ones) competing in performance of complex behaviors (courtship display), which ranges from courtship dances to construction of aesthetically pleasing nest formations. In the same manner, higher human cognition has been suggested to have largely evolved by sexual selection as a "cognitive ornament".
Male dancers of the Wodaabe African tribe (see video) are a clear example of men showing off sexual adaptations for facial expressiveness, fine control of facial muscles, glances, smiling, sense of style and adornment, singing, chanting, whistling, as well as the white of the eye (sclera), straight white teeth, all of which are possibly sexual/aesthetic adaptations. Wodaabes believe men who are not physically beautiful can make up for it with togu (game) and flirting with poetic speech patterns called sweet tongue, i.e. beautiful behavior. Such courtship performances have striking resemblance with modern day jestermaxxing and tindermaxxing. People on the autism spectrum often lack fine control of their facial muscles or body overall. Dance performances with rhythmic and rocking motions, delicate hand movements, and overall elegance, poise and coolness are seen in many indigenous cultures, so these behaviors are generally potential candidates for being primarily sexual adaptations as they evidently played an important role in mate selection for both men and women, as can be seen by women also being involved in dances, instead of just watching the males dance.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Fuller, R. C., Houle, D., & Travis, J. 2005. Sensory Bias as an Explanation for the Evolution of Mate Preferences. [Abstract]
- Matsuura K. 2014. A new pufferfish of the genus Torquigener that builds "mystery circles" on sandy bottoms in the Ryukyu Islands, Japan (Actinopterygii: Tetraodontiformes: Tetraodontidae). Ichthyological Research. Vol 62.2, pp. 207–212. [Abstract]
Biological essentialism • Traditional conservatism • Fatalism • Blackpill • Scientific Blackpill • Scientific Blackpill (Supplemental) • Behavioral sink • Hypergamy • Matthew effect • Beauty • Dominance hierarchy • J. D. Unwin • Sexual sublimation • Female subordination
Cope or rope • Cope • Lay down and rot • Inbreeding depression • Outbreeding depression • Mutation • Atavism • Reproductive success • Demographics of inceldom • Causes of inceldom • Adverse effects of inceldom • Evolutionary mismatch • Behavioral sink