Facial similarity and racial bias
Several studies have suggested that people are generally attracted to people who look like them and they generally evaluate faces that exhibit features of their own ethnic or racial group as being more attractive. Although both men and women use children’s “facial resemblance” to themselves in “attractiveness judgments,” a greater percentage of women in one study (37% n=30) found hypothetical children whose faces were “self-morphs” of themselves as most attractive when compared to men (30% n=23).However, one report in The Guardian suggested there was a “Caucasian beauty standard” spreading worldwide because of the proliferation of the Western entertainment industry.
The more similar a judged person is toward the judging person, the more the former is liked. However, this effect can be reversed. This might depend on how attractiveness is conceptualized: similar members (compared to dissimilar ones) of the opposite sex are judged as more likable in a prosocial sense. Again, findings are more ambiguous when looking for the desiring, pleasure related component of attractiveness. This might be influenced by the measure one uses (subjective ratings can differ from the way one actually reacts) and by situational factors: while men usually prefer women whose face resembles their own, this effect can reverse under stress, when dissimilar females are preferred
Perceptions of physical attractiveness contribute to generalized assumptions based on those attractions. Individuals assume that when someone is beautiful, then they have many other positive attributes that make the attractive person more likeable. This is also called the ‘beautiful-is-good’ effect. Across cultures, what is beautiful is assumed to be good; attractive people are assumed to be more extroverted, popular, and happy. This could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, as, from a young age, attractive people receive more attention that helps them develop these characteristics.
In one study, beautiful people were found to be generally happier than less beautiful or plain people, perhaps because these outgoing personality traits are linked to happiness, or perhaps because beauty led to increased economic benefits which partially explained the increased happiness. In another study testing first impressions in 56 female and 17 male participants at University of British Columbia, personality traits of physically attractive people were identified more positively and more accurately than those who were less physically attractive. It was explained that people pay closer attention to those they find physically beautiful or attractive, and thus perceiving attractive individuals with greater distinctive accuracy. The study believes this accuracy to be subjective to the eye of the beholder.
However, attractiveness varies by society; in ancient China, a small foot was considered attractive, so foot binding was practiced by confining young girls’ feet in tightly bound shoes to prevent the feet from growing to normal size. In England, women used to wear corsets that severely constricted their breathing and damaged vital internal organs, in order to achieve a visual effect of an exaggeratedly low Waist-to-Hip ratio.
People make judgments of physical attractiveness based on what they see, but also on what they know about the person. Specifically, perceptions of beauty are malleable such that information about the person’s personality traits can influence one’s assessment of another person’s physical beauty. A 2007 study had participants first rate pictures for attractiveness. After doing distracting math problems, participants saw the pictures again, but with information about the person’s personality. When participants learned that a person had positive personality characteristics (e.g., smart, funny, kind), that person was seen as more physically attractive.
Conversely, a person with negative personality characteristics (e.g., materialistic, rude, untrustworthy) was seen as less physically attractive. This was true for both females and males. A person may be perceived as being more attractive if they are seen as part of a group of friends, rather than alone, according to one study. Physical attractiveness can have various effects. A survey conducted by London Guildhall University of 11,000 people showed that those who subjectively describe themselves as physically attractive earn more income than others who would describe themselves as less attractive.
People who described themselves as less attractive earned, on average, 13% less than those who described themselves as more attractive, while the penalty for being overweight was around 5%. According to further research done on the correlation between looks and earnings in men, the punishment for unattractiveness is greater than the benefits of being attractive. However, in women the punishment is found to be equal to the benefits. Another study suggests that more physically attractive people are significantly more likely on average to earn considerably higher wages. Differences in income due to attractiveness was much more pronounced for men rather than women, and held true for all ranges of income
It is important to note that other factors such as self-confidence may explain or influence these findings as they are based on self-reported attractiveness as opposed to any sort of objective criteria; however, as one’s self-confidence and self-esteem are largely learned from how one is regarded by his/her peers while maturing, even these considerations would suggest a significant role for physical appearance. One writer speculated that “the distress created in women by the spread of unattainable ideals of female beauty” might possibly be linked to increasing incidence of depression.
Many have asserted that certain advantages tend to come to those who are perceived as being more attractive, including the ability to get better jobs and promotions; receiving better treatment from authorities and the legal system; having more choices in romantic partners and, therefore, more power in relationships; and marrying into families with more money.
Those who are attractive are treated and judged more positively than those who are considered unattractive, even by those who know them. Also, attractive individuals behave more positively than those who are unattractive. One study found that teachers tend to expect that children who are attractive are more intelligent, and are more likely to progress further in school. They also consider these students to be more popular. Voters choose political candidates who are more attractive over those who are less attractive. Men and women use physical attractiveness as a measure of how “good” another person is.
In 1946, Soloman Asch coined the Implicit Personality Theory, meaning that the presence of one trait tends to imply the existence of other traits. This is also known as the halo effect. Research suggests that those who are physically attractive are thought to have more socially desirable personalities and lead better lives in general. This is also known as the “what-is-beautiful-is-good effect.” Discrimination against or prejudice towards others based on their appearance is sometimes referred to as lookism.
Some researchers conclude that little difference exists between men and women in terms of sexual behavior. Symmetrical men and women have a tendency to begin to have sexual intercourse at an earlier age, to have more sexual partners, to engage in a wider variety of sexual activities, and to have more one-night stands. They are also prone to infidelity and are more likely to have open relationships. Additionally, they have the most reproductive success. Therefore, their physical characteristics are most likely to be inherited by future generations.
Concern for improving physical attractiveness has led many persons to consider alternatives such as cosmetic surgery. It has led scientists working with related disciplines such as computer imaging and mathematics to conduct research to suggest ways to surgically alter a face in terms of distances between facial features, to make it closer to an ideal face with “agreed-upon standards of attractiveness”, by using algorithms to suggest an alternative which still resembles the current face. One research study found that cosmetic surgery as a way to “boost earnings” was “not profitable in a monetary sense.” Perhaps people try to look more beautiful because they think it would make them happier. However, research shows that physical attractiveness seems to only have a marginal effect on happiness.
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