Physical attractiveness  

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"THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213 th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General." --"Harrison Bergeron" (1961) Kurt Vonnegut


"physical attractiveness, both as subjectively experienced and objectively measured, operates in accordance with exchange-market rules. Individuals with equal market value for physical attractiveness are more likely to associate in an intimate relationship such as engagement than individuals with disparate values".Who Will Marry Whom?: Theory and Research in Marital Choice (1976) is a book by Bernard I. Murstein.

The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli
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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Physical attractiveness is a measure of an individual's power to attract, arouse interest, or instill pleasure. The term may also apply to a group, race, or type of people. Traits may range from being deemed as extremely repulsive to those that are extremely attractive. Common scientific quantifiers used to measure "physical attractiveness" are averageness, symmetry, and youthfulness (in women), as well as others, such as complexion, skin tone, vigor, etc. Physical attractiveness has a close relationship to beauty.

Moreover, attractiveness can include various implications, such as sexual attractiveness, cuteness, and physique. Judgment of attractiveness of physical traits is partly universal to all human cultures, partly dependent on culture or society or time period, and partly a matter of individual preference. Despite the existence of universally agreed upon signs of beauty in both genders, both homosexual and heterosexual men tend to place significantly higher value on physical appearance in a partner than women. This can be explained by evolutionary psychology as a consequence of the ancestral men who cared more about appearances of their partners enjoyed greater evolutionary success as a result of higher fertility in those partners, whereas the ability to impregnate and provide resources for a woman matters much less on the appearance of the man with whom she's mated.

Physical attractiveness can have a significant effect on how people are judged, in terms of employment or social opportunities, friendship, sexual behavior, and marriage. In many cases humans attribute positive characteristics, such as intelligence and honesty, to attractive people without consciously realizing it.

Human beauty

The characterization of a person as “beautiful”, whether on an individual basis or by community consensus, is often based on some combination of Inner Beauty, which includes psychological factors such as personality, intelligence, grace, politeness, charisma, integrity, congruence and elegance, and Outer Beauty, (i.e. physical attractiveness) which includes physical factors, such as health, youthfulness, facial symmetry, averageness, and complexion.

Standards of beauty are always evolving, based on what a culture considers valuable. Historical paintings show a wide range of different standards for beauty. However, humans who are relatively young, with smooth skin, well-proportioned bodies, and regular features, have traditionally been considered to be the most beautiful throughout history.

A strong indicator of physical beauty is "averageness," or "koinophilia." When images of human faces are averaged together to form a composite image, they become progressively closer to the "ideal" image and are perceived as more attractive. This was first noticed in 1883, when Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, overlaid photographic composite images of the faces of vegetarians and criminals to see if there was a typical facial appearance for each. When doing this, he noticed that the composite images were more attractive compared to any of the individual images.

Researchers have replicated the result under more controlled conditions and found that the computer generated, mathematical average of a series of faces is rated more favorably than individual faces. Evolutionarily it makes logical sense that sexual creatures should be attracted to mates who possess predominantly common or average features.

A feature of beautiful women that has been explored by researchers is a waist-to-hip ratio of approximately 0.70. Physiologists have shown that women with hourglass figures are more fertile than other women due to higher levels of certain female hormones, a fact that may subconsciously condition males choosing mates.


People are influenced by the images they see in the media to determine what is or is not beautiful. Feminists and doctors have suggested that the ultra-skinny models featured in magazines promote eating disorders, and internalized racism.

The black is beautiful cultural movement sought to dispel this notion. Conversely, beauty ideals may also promote racial unity. Mixed race children are often perceived to be more attractive than their parents because their genetic diversity protects them from the inherited errors of their individual parents.

The concept of beauty in men is known as 'bishōnen' in Japan. Bishōnen refers to males with distinctly feminine features, physical characteristics establishing the standard of beauty in Japan and typically exhibited in their pop culture idols.

Inner beauty

Inner beauty is a concept used to describe the positive aspects of something that is not physically observable.

While most species use physical traits and pheromones to attract mates, some humans claim to rely on the inner beauty of their choices. Qualities including kindness, sensitivity, tenderness or compassion, creativity and intelligence have been said to be desirable since antiquity.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Physical attractiveness" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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