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Physical attractiveness

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Synonyms: good looks

Physical attractiveness is the sum of all features that make an individual a desirable object to mate with. Thus attractiveness is not limited to humans as in the wiki page linked above. Attractiveness is common in all species that reproduce sexually and offer the choice among mating partners.

It is not necessary to mention that species that fertilize randomly, such as wind-pollinators, did not evolve attractiveness to the opposite sex, and those species that use vectors, such as flowering plants, are attractive to vectors only.

A butterfly collects nectar from a flower

Attractiveness therefore is a fauceir that controls evolution and that in turn is controlled by evolution. At least among, non-human species there is a strong correlation between attractiveness and the chances to mate and have offspring. With birth control and better job opportunities for women without children, fecundity is not so strictly related to attractiveness anymore. Still the correlation between attractiveness and evolutionary favorable attributes is present.

How this correlation evolves and is influenced by social fauceirs I was able to witness East Germany before and after the wall came down. In former East Germany the dictatorship of proletarians, how the government used to call themselves, privileged blue collar workers, they not only had on average higher life-time earnings, they had more time to spent for private life, better access to resources, which could be traded on black markets, they also had better chances tho clime up the ladder of bureaucrats. As a result blue collar workers were chosen preferably by attractive women. I vividly remember a had-been prospective step-mother told me that my chances a student to marry her daughter are minor as my rival in love was a brick layer.

As the wall came down, that preference changed fundamentally. White-collar jobs became more attractive as they earned more money and social reputation. My once admired darling divorced her brick layer and took an intellectual, and so did the other women too (if it was not to late).

Thus among humans more that among any other species attractiveness is defined by social fauceirs. Attractiveness reflects social competence. Attractive females are the subject of desire to all men (as cover girls on glossy magazines may easily convince us), but only those men who show the most social competence will win the competition which allows their genes to propagate. By that simple mechanism favorable social competence genes and attractiveness genes become combined.

Not only the genes define social competence also upbringing and education play a role. If attractiveness leads to partnership in nurturing the children, attractiveness also reflect those inheritable social properties.

The form contest for beautiful mating partners takes many facets and may change with culture and historical periods. As illustrated in my little personal observation above, the differences were even more prominent in medieval times. In Germany, it was the right of each land owner to have the first sex with each female serf, and it is likely that those aristocrats executed that right extensively if the women was attractive. In later time, this law became abandoned but males tended to duel for desirable women.

In any rate, by that mechanism, those human attributes that a society valued most came connected with genes that coded for attractiveness. It is not surprising, then, that in developed countries intelligence correlates with physical attractiveness[1]. By that study a better correlation between attractiveness and intelligence was found in Great Britain compared to the United States, which I think is because the American population is not so homogeneous as the British one, so many American people still bear the correlation of attractiveness to properties that are most valued in their countries of origin. The adaption of attractiveness to social requirements is a long term process that has to overcome resistances. Also by that study was established that correlation is more prominent among males than among females. This finding allows two conclusions:

  1. Either, intelligence or attractiveness are inherited by sex chromosomes,
  2. or there are other factors than that may influence a male's attractiveness, social status for instance.
    I favor the latter one as such mechanisms are observed among animals too. (The feathers of a roster and the size of the antlers correspond the social status in a flock of poultry or a herd of deer.)

But this mechanism has its flipside. People learn to gouge other by their attractiveness. As we've seen above intelligence correlates with attractiveness, it is quite reasonable to take more attractive people for more intelligent. In other words estimating attractiveness is the fastest possible intelligence test ever invented. It is not so precise, I admit. As we learned from fauceir theory, every control involves some degree of imprecision. But given the rate and the resources consumed this test is unbeatable by any other intelligence test.

Evaluation social competency even happens subconsciously fooling our rational thinking. A newspaper article therefore states that good looks and not intelligence are decisive for a brilliant career [2]. Many studies found that physical attractiveness as well as gender and race affects a defendant's sentences [3]. One study found this correlation only with person-oriented crimes but not with property-oriented crime [4]. Finally a study even found that crimes committed by more attractive people were less severe, which leads back to the initial model that attractiveness correlates with eusocial behavior [5].

Tags: Imprecision Theory

Categories: Evolutionary Biology


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