HomePage.com ad

Stacy Roberts , Ashly Mulder, & Sarah Tieman

Survival of The Prettiest: The Science of Beauty

By Nancy L. Etcoff

Chapters 1& 2


Chapter 1

Introduction : The Nature of Beauty


Beauty is one of the most important aspects of our lives.  People are always searching to see and ponder the beautiful things, especially the human form.  We revere beauty, searching to find it in both reality and in our imaginations.  Yet in a way, beauty seems to be just an escape from reality, our perpetual adolescence refusing to accept a flawed world.  Is beauty in the eye of the beholder, simply an opinion of an individual?  Does beauty even exist?

            Naomi Wolf believes that beauty as an objective and universal entity does not exist (3).  To her, it is just a fiction created by the beauty industries and sold as a drug to women.  It forces women into a powerless world—they scrounge for beauty, to stir up envy and desire.  Only the beautiful have power.  In reality, the industries just make more money and preserve the status quo of women everywhere.  Or maybe beauty is inconsequential, because it explains, solves, and teaches nothing.  Yet it is still clamored for.

            Although beauty does not “exist” as an idea, it does rule as an experience.  Women do search to cultivate beauty and the power it could bring.  Any crowd-pleasing image offered by the industry is imitated over and over as people desire to have that crowd-pleasing quality.  Yet beauty is not confined, but thrives on diversity.  Darwin states that “if everyone were cast in the same mold, there would be no such thing as beauty”—beauty is what makes someone different, not the same and boring (5).

            People do all kinds of extreme things in the name of beauty, to improve aesthetic details.  Millions of dollars are spent on surgeries, piercings, paintings, implantings, and makeup and skin care products.  People are obsessed with appearances, and no one is immune to the contemplation of whether or not he or she is attractive.  The world assumes what is visible on the outside must reflect the invisible, inner self.  Although this is not true, our passionate pursuit of beauty reflects this basic instinct within us.  Thus we constantly desire to improve our looks to create the experience of beauty.


What is Beauty and How Do We Know It?

            People are constantly sizing up one another’s looks.  A person can see a face for a fraction of a second and instantly rate its beauty (the same rating he or she would give upon closer inspection), and that initial response will stay with him or her for longer than any other memory of the stranger.  This is a natural response for a human, and those who do not respond to physical beauty are those depressed with a physical, spiritual, or emotional malaise.

            Yet, what is beauty?  What makes someone a beautiful person?  Those who are “experts” on the subject, such as modeling and acting agents, cannot describe actual aspects of beauty.  They describe the experience of seeing beauty—the breathtaking response at first sight, the glimpse that catches your eyes and demands a better look.  In an attempt to find a definition for “beautiful,” once again we find it to be “anything that a person likes very much,” something that “gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit” (8).  Thus beauty is intrinsic to an object, the pleasurable experience of the beholder, not certain aspects of the object.  As Ezra Pound says, it is “the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself or darts into a thing inward and subjective” (10).  It is not a rational contemplation, but a response to physical urgency felt by those who experience it.


An Ideal of Beauty Exists in the Mind, Not the Flesh

            People judge appearances as though somewhere in their minds an ideal beauty of the human form exists, a form they would recognize if they saw it, though they do not expect they ever will.  It exists in the imagination.  We possess this innate beauty template against which we measure all that we see.  Kenneth Clark notes that every time we criticize a human figure, we are revealing that we hold an ideal of physical beauty (11).  Albrecht Durer also mentions that “there lives on earth no one beautiful person who could not be more beautiful” (11).  And it is true—no matter who we think is most beautiful, we will always find a flaw that would make them more beautiful if it were fixed.

            In order to create an ideal beautiful human form, people have fallen into the trap of manipulating the human form.  Artists paint pictures that leave out flaws.  Photographs are airbrushed to eliminate what is undesirable to the eye.  Body doubles are used in films.  “Specialty models,” which center on perfect body parts, model only those parts, for they are not perfect for modeling the rest of their bodies.  Anyone who is to show his or her own whole body will primp and pose to find what makes him or her look best.  Kenneth Clark writes that “naked figures do not move us to empathy, but to disillusion and dismay.  We do not wish to imitate, we wish to perfect” (12).  This is true.  The imperfections of the human body reach our eyes and we instantly criticize and wish to fix what is “wrong.”

            People are constantly looking at themselves to make sure they are on display as they want to be seen.  We attempt to make everything look better so as to please and tempt.  This is a natural human longing.  Even so, it is interesting that the person who looks in the mirror all the time is labeled “vain” whereas the person who spends $200 making themselves beautiful is “indulging.”

            Paul Valery says we suffer from a “three-body problem” that we can never solve.  The first body is that which we possess and live in.  It is the self we experience.  The second body is the public façade, the form subject to traditional artistic portrayal.  The third body is the physical machine that we barely know, which beauty covers and helps us deny (14).

            As humans, we long to be not only works of nature, but works of art.  This is a spiritual long, a desire to have an outer representation that matches our dreams and aspirations.  It is a quest for love and acceptance, to have a body and face that people want to look at and know, one that provides a pleasurable experience.  Biologists say that the human quest for beauty is driven by the genes’ desire to make their habitat as pleasing as possible to invite as many visitors as possible.  Whatever the explanation, it is true that all people want to be beautiful.


The Beauty Canon

            Over time, through the discourses of philosophers such as Plato, St. Augustine, Aristotle, Cicero, and Plotinus, there have been many mentions of beauty and what it consists of.  These philosophers all agree that beauty is based on the aesthetic principles of proportion, number, clarity, symmetry, harmony, and vivid color.

            Artists throughout history have tried to capture the geometric proportions of beauty by devising measurement systems for the human body.  Most often this consisted of a search for perfect symmetry in a person.  Although today we think of symmetry as the correspondence of form on opposite sides of a dividing line, plane, or central axis, in the Greek and Renaissance times they thought of symmetry as the relation between and the exact correspondence between parts, usually expressed in whole numbers.  Thus artists like Albrecht Durer measured every body part in relation to the length of his middle finger.  A common Renaissance guideline was to judge the distance and curves between facial parts in a pre-approved method.

            In an attempt to find out whether or not this was an acceptable way to measure beauty, Leslie Farkas did a survey in which people rated the beauty of others.  He then tested those who had been rated to see if the “beautiful” ones fit into the Renaissance mold.  It turns out that many of the guidelines to the mold did not fit the responders’ opinions, thus the classical artists might have been wrong about the fundamental nature of human beauty (17-18).


Beauty Satanic and Divine

            Plato believed that beauty made the spiritual visible, similar to Thomas Mann’s belief that “beauty alone is…the only form of the spiritual which we can receive through the senses” (18).  Beauty is a platonic Pure Form, of which things of this world may offer us glimpses but never truly incarnate.  It has a strange and mysterious power, similar to the power other spiritual and intangible things hold over people.

            With the arrival of Christianity, the attitude toward beauty became more ambivalent.  Throughout Judeo-Christian history, there has been an agonized struggle to reconcile beauty as temptation and beauty as God’s glory.  Beauty has been feared as a sensual temptation and a worldly vanity.  St. Clement said “there is nothing good in the flesh” and Jerome felt that the flesh needed to be “conquered” (18).  The teachings of Christ call His followers to renounce temptation and the transient things of this world.

            At the same time, though, beauty is revered as an image of God’s grace.  In Genesis, it mentions that man is made in God’s image, whose appearance is divine, and the more beautiful, the more Godlike one’s appearance would be.  Thomas Aquinas said that “beauty is the mark of the well made…the imitation of an idea in the mind of the creator” (19).  Albrecht Durer says that those who are beautiful such as Adam before the fall and Christ are those who are perfect, whereas we are not perfect and we have imperfect beauty (19).

            The conflicts in Christianity mirror the fact that our attitudes toward beauty is entwined with our conflicts surrounding flesh and spirit.  Freud also brings this matter up, as psychoanalysis assumed a legacy of shame around the body.  He feels that beauty derives from sexual excitement that must be deflected away from its source.  Plus, too much cultivation of beauty reflects pathological narcissism, a largely female problem that covers shame and worthlessness.

            Human obsession with cosmetic surgery was once given psychiatric diagnosis because it was assumed that “depressed” people would be those who were not happy with their looks, which might not have been perfect, but were not in need of altering either.  Recently, though, humans have come to realize that the search for aesthetic perfection is a common human trait, no an ailment.  It is a way to refashion oneself, just as psychoanalysis tries to alter one’s character traits.  Also, it is similar to what Peter Kramer calls “cosmetic pharmacology,” the use of drugs to alter one’s personality (20).  Thus the search for beauty and betterment of the self is nothing out of the ordinary, but just another way for humans to make themselves more desirable—a pleasant experience—in the end.


The Evolution of Beauty

Any reading of psychology and anthropology texts written before the late 1960s would suggest that physical appearance had absolutely no bearing on human attitudes or affections, and no role in human mental life.  Why have the social sciences had so little interest in the human body?

One reason is that the social sciences were not interested in any “givens.”  The standard social science model (SSSM) that was developed over the past century viewed the mind as a blank slate whose contents were determined by the environment and the social world.  The mind itself was believed to consist of a few general purpose mechanisms for perceiving and understanding the environment.  It was a model that divided biology from culture, and then ignored biology (the mere slate) to probe the influential work of culture.  The roots of the model are political and social as well as intellectual.

Cultural relativism came to the intellectual forefront in the United States during the 1920s as a reaction to claims that races, ethnic groups, classes, women, and so on were innately inferior.  These arguments were countered with ones of behaviorism, showing that people can drastically alter their behavior in response to environmental rewards and punishments. 

The SSSM presented evidence from other cultures to show that human behavior was malleable.  Margaret Mead’s description of the sexual freedom of Samoan girls was in this tradition.  Social scientists concluded that beauty must be a matter of individual taste or cultural dictate.

Beauty was also shunned by social scientists because of the “spectacular failure” of previous attempts to link physical attributes to behavior.  They shunned beauty as trivial, undemocratic, and not a proper subject for science.  However, within the next three decades, an explosion of research was to provide the compelling evidence for a new view of human beauty.  It suggested that the assumption of beauty as an arbitrary cultural convention may simply not be true.

Culture cannot just spring forth from nowhere; it must be shaped by, and be responsive to, basic human instincts and innate preferences.  Aspects of judgments of human beauty may be influenced by culture and individual history.

The following is an argument for beauty as a biological adaptation: The argument is a simple one- that beauty is a universal part of the human experience, and that is provokes pleasure, rivets attention, and impels actions that help ensure the survival of our genes.  Our extreme sensitivity to beauty is governed by circuits in the brain shaped by natural selection.  We love to look at smooth skin, thick, shiny hair, curved waists, and symmetrical bodies because in the course of evolution the people who noticed these signals and desired their possessors had more reproductive success.  We are their descendants.

Unlike racism and sexism, which we are conscious of, “lookism,” or beauty prejudice, operates at a largely unconscious level.  From infancy to adulthood, beautiful people are treated preferentially and viewed more positively.  This is true for men as well as women. 

“Beautiful people find sexual partners more easily; and beautiful individuals are more likely to find leniency in the court and elicit cooperation from strangers.  Beauty conveys modest but real social and economic advantages and, equally important, ugliness leads to major social disadvantages and discrimination”(25).


Chapter 2

Beauty As Bait


Children’s Response To Beauty

Children are sensitive to beauty from a very early age.  Popular wisdom is that children learn beauty preferences through acculturation.  “Perhaps their parents foist certain tastes upon them, then peers rebelliously revise the aesthetics, and pop culture finally fine- tunes it”(31).

            Psychologist Judith Langlosis is convinced that “we are born with preferences and even a baby knows beauty when she sees it”(31).  She points out that infants even show preferences for beautiful unfamiliar faces.  Infants share a universal set of sensual preferences.  They prefer to look more at symmetrical patterns than at asymmetrical ones, and to touch soft surfaces rather than rough ones.  “The newborn baby’s preferences are formes frustes of adult preferences”(33).

  Babies turn into adults who like symmetry and harmony and things that feel smooth; they are riveted by the sight of the human face, and aroused when eyes meet theirs.  When babies fix their stare at the same faces adults describe as highly attractive, their actions wordlessly argue against the belief that culture must teach us to recognize human beauty.



            Infants set off a rush of tender emotions with their soft skin and hair, huge eyes, big pupils, chubby cheeks, and small noses.  The reaction to baby features is automatic and we behave tenderly toward any creature who mimics them.  Toy manufacturers and cartoonists capitalize on our innate preferences for juvenille features.  Consider Mickey Mouse with his big head and short limbs, or Bambi with an exaggerated high forehead like an infants, as well as those doe eyes.

            Psychologists videotaped infants and mothers during the babies’ first few days of life.  They found that the mothers of the most attractive babies spent the most time holding the baby close and vocalizing to the baby.  The mothers of the less attractive babies spent more time tending to the baby’s needs (wiping, burping, etc.).


Father Knows Best

An infants looks are one of the most important factors in the first days of life.  Parents tend to believe that their child is the cutest, and is better looking than anyone else’s baby.  Family, friends and parents look at the baby’s face to see who they resemble.  Is it mom or is it dad?  Immediately after the baby’s birth, mothers are more apt to day that their baby looks more like the father (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 38).

Psychologists, Margo Wilson and Martin Daly sent questionnaires to hundreds of new mothers and fathers and their relatives.  Claims of paternal resemblance were very common (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 38).  Wilson and Daly interpret their results as being that the mothers have no doubt that the child is theirs.  The fathers on the other hand are running the risk of being deceived.  Before DNA testing, fathers had two ways of knowing that their child is actually theirs.  One is, their knowledge of their spouse’s fidelity, and the other is if the child physically resembles them.  Putting emphasis on the baby’s resemblance to the father helps to erase any doubt and assures his investment in the family.


Appearance and Reality

Everyone is cute, or perceived to be cute when they are babies, but as we get older, we lose the protection that cuteness affords.  We all face the world knowing that adult beauty s a great and distinct advantage, but it protects only the chosen few.

People like to believe that looks do not matter, but if you were to look at a magazine stand, you would realize that the image is just as important if not more than the product being sold.  The human mind is not designed to separate surface from substance.  For example, young children find it especially difficult to separate appearance from reality.  When psychologists show a young child a squirrel, and then shave it and paint it so it looks like a raccoon, the child will say it is a raccoon (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 40).  They are so persuaded by its appearance, they don’t realize that it is still a squirrel, it just looks different.

There is a good evolutionary reason why we place so much value on appearance.  Looks have been a reasonable guide to what is good and bad for us (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 40).  Brown spots and wrinkled skin tells us that fruit is bad, and a bright green color tells us that the fruit is not ripe.  It is easy to say the when something looks good it probably is good.


Looking Good

Dating back to Plato, it has been the idea the carnal beauty is visible evidence of internal beauty.  Throughout the Renaissance, people thought beauty was good.  Baldassare Catiglione wrote that, “Beauty is a sacred thing, only rarely does evil dwell in a beautiful body, and so outward beauty is a true sign of inner goodness.”

Ugliness was a sign of the bad, mad or dangerous (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 42).  Deformities, ugliness and disease were seen to be branded on the body was a wrath from God.  Castiglione wrote, “For the most part, the ugly are also evil.”

In 1586, Giovanni Della Porta, an Italian naturalist and philosopher tried to understand the relationship between the body and the soul.  He drew analogies from animals to create a simple comparison.  Each animal has a defining passion, and each human who resembles that animal shares its same passion.  An ass is foolish, a rabbit is timid, a mule is stubborn, an ox is dumb and a pig is dirty and greedy.  Della Porta argued that is a man had any resemblance to a particular animal, he should be aware that he will act and behave similarly.

Petrus Camper, an eighteenth century Dutch artist invented a device to measure facial angles.  By combining the measurements from ear to lip, and forehead to jaw, he came up with the facial angle.  This was the first measurement system for comparing skulls of different races.  In doing this he found that the facial angles increased from orangutans and monkeys to African blacks to Orientals to European man and finally the Greek gods (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 43).  By using this example, European men put forth the idea that hey were the most beautiful humans since the greed gods.  They automatically assumed that their character and intelligence were the best as a result of their beauty.  This mentality was used to justify cultural and racial superiority.


The Injustice of the Given

In several staged experiments, psychologists have tested people’s honesty towards good looking and plain looking people.  For example in one study, seventy-five college men were shown photographs of women, some of whom were very attractive and others less so.  They were asked to select the person they would be most likely to do the following: help move furniture, loan money, donate blood, donate a kidney, swim one mile to rescue, save her from a burning building, and even jump on a terrorist hand grenade.  Them men were most likely to volunteer for any of these altruistic and risky acts for a beautiful woman.  The only thing they seemed reluctant to do for her was loan her money (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 44).

People are more likely to help attractive people even if they do not like them.  In another staged experiment, an attractive or unattractive woman gave men compliments on their work or criticized it.  Afterward the men were asked how much they liked the woman.  They particularly liked the attractive woman who praised them, and liked least the attractive woman who criticized them.  But asked to volunteer more time, the men gave it to the good-looking woman, even if he did not like her (Etcoff, 1999, pg.45).

Interestingly enough people are less likely to ask good-looking people for help.  This is particularly true for men with good looking women, but it is also true for both men and women with good looking members of their own sex.  Efforts to please good-looking people with no expectation of immediate reward or reciprocal action are one way to reinforce beauty as a form of status.


Beauty as Status

Very attractive people of any size are given big personal territories that they carry around with them.  They have certain privileges over ordinary looking people.  They are more likely to win arguments and persuade others of their opinions (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 46).  People tell good-looking men and women personal information.  The bottom line is, people want to please the beautiful by letting themselves be persuaded, telling them gossip and backing off form them as they walk down the street.

But maybe people are in awe from sheer confidence and assertiveness.  Perhaps they are persuaded by intelligence or force of personality.  Attractive people do tend to be more at ease socially, more confident and less likely to fear negative opinions than unattractive people (Etcoff, pg. 47).

In a particular study, people were asked to participate in an interview with a psychologist.  During the course of the interview the psychologist was interrupted by a student and excused herself.  If the interviewee waited patiently, the interruption would last ten minutes.  Attractive people waited three minutes and twenty seconds on average before demanding attention.  Less attractive people waited an average of nine minutes.  There was no difference in how the two groups rated their own attractiveness.  Attractive people merely felt entitled to better treatment (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 47).

Even being treated the way beautiful people are treated can cause some changes in behavior.  Psychologists set up a study in which women and men talked on the phone for ten minutes; during this time the men were told to try to get to know the women.  Each man had been given a Polaroid snapshot of the woman they were supposed to be talking with.  In their mind’s eye, the phone companion was beautiful or ugly.  In fact, all men were talking to the same woman.  The really  interesting part of the whole experiment was that the woman became more animated and confident in conversations with men who believed her to be beautiful (Etcoff, 1999, pg.47).


To Whom Much is Given, Much is Expected

We expect attractive people to be better at everything, especially in bed.  For practically any positive quality you can think of, people assume that good looking people have more of it, do it better and enjoy it more(Etcoff, 1999, pg. 48).  These expectations start in childhood.  An experiment done in Missouri proved that teachers expected the good-looking children to be more intelligent and more sociable and more popular with their peers.  What is more disturbing is that the good looking children do often do better in school and have more friends (Etcoff, 1999, 49).  When a good looking child is though to be doing harmful bad deeds, adults give them the benefit of the doubt and presume that the child is having a bad day or is the victim of the circumstance.  The adults do not believe that he or she has done this before or will do it again.  The unattractive children are more likely to be eyed suspiciously as possible future juvenile delinquents (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 49).

Good-looking adults are more likely to get away with anything form shoplifting to cheating on exams to committing serious crimes.  They are less likely to get reported, and if they are reported, they are less likely to get accused or penalized. 

Beauty is an advantage in all realms of life.  It is important to realize the magnitude of the advantage.  In most of these studies, attractive people have an edge, but it is small to moderate rather than large.  Most studies compare great looking people with very unattractive people.  These studies say as much about the disadvantages of being below average in looks as much about the advantages of beauty.  In fact, the evidence is that the penalty for ugliness might even be greater than the reward for beauty (Etcoff, 1999, pg. 50).


Packing Heat

People expect good-looking people to be great in bed, and experienced.  Men expect beautiful women to have a high sex drive and prefer a variety in sex.  Another expectation that people have of good looking people are that they have more dates, fall in love more often, and start their sex lives earlier.  Studies by scientists Randy Thornhill and Steven Gangestad suggest that good looking men are more likely to bring their women to orgasm, and to simultaneous orgasm.  This suggests that the good looking may indeed be having more fun, at least in bed.

Good-looking people don’t have any great sexual secrets, but they do have more opportunities.  Without much effort, they have already fulfilled their partner’s fantasies, just by their physical mystique.  





Sarah’s outline

Introduction:  The Nature of Beauty


I.          Intro

A.        Humans have the limitless desire to see and imagine the ideal human form

            B.         Reverence for beauty is an escape from reality

                        1.         the perpetual adolescence in us refusing to accept a flawed world

            C.        Naomi Wolf:  beauty as an objective and universal entity does not exist

                        1.         fiction created by industries

                                    a.         make money

                                    b.         preserve status quo

                        2.         beauty is inconsequential

                                    a.         explains, solves, teaches nothing

            D.        Reality:  beyond ideas, beauty rules

                        1.         women cultivate beauty and use it as power

            E.         Beauty industry:  exploits universal preferences, does not create them

                        1.         crowd pleasing image = mold to be imitated over and over

                        2.         beauty thrives on diversity

a.         Darwin:  "If everyone were cast in the same mold, there would be no such thing as beauty."

            F.         People do extreme things in the name of beauty

                        1.         aesthetic surgeries, piercings, makeup, etc.

            G.        No one can withstand appearances; no one is immune

1.         Tolstoy:  "Nothing has such a striking impact on a man's development as his appearance, and not so much his actual appearance as a conviction that it is either attractive or unattractive."

2.         appearance is the public part of ourselves; in theory the visible self is a mirror of the invisible inner self

3.         Our passionate pursuit of beauty reflects the workings of a basic instinct

II.         What Is Beauty and How Do We Know It?

            A.        People constantly size up other's looks

1.         see a face in a fraction of a second and rate its beauty; initial response to always stay with us

2.         not seeing physical beauty is a sign of depression

            B.         What is beauty?

                        1.         not definable, even by experts

                        2.         describe the experience of seeing beauty, not what it looks like

            C.        "Beautiful" defined

1.         "excelling in grace of form, charm of coloring, and other qualities, which delight the eye and call forth admiration."

                        2.         "anything that a person likes very much."

3.         "gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit."

a.         beauty is intrinsic to the object or the pleasure the object evokes

            D.        The object of beauty is debated, but the pleasurable experience of it is not

1.         experience is not rational contemplation, but is a response to physical urgency

2.         Ezra Pound:  "the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself or darts into a thing inward and subjective."

III.       An Ideal of Beauty Exists in the Mind, Not the Flesh

A.                 People judge appearances as though somewhere in their minds (imaginations) an ideal beauty of the human form exists

1.                  they would recognize it if they saw it, but they never expect to

B.                 We possess an innate beauty template which we are unlikely to access directly but against which we measure all that we see

1.                  Kenneth Clark:  every time we criticize a human figure, we are revealing that we hold an ideal of physical beauty

2.                  Albrecht Durer:  “there lives on earth no one beautiful person who could not be more beautiful.”

C.                 Create images of beauty out of the ideal parts of many

1.                  manipulate in an attempt to create an ideal that does not have human incarnation

a.                   body doubles, specialty models

D.                 Kenneth Clark:  “naked figures do not move us to empathy but to disillusion and dismay.  We do not wish to imitate, we wish to perfect.”

E.                  Paul Valery:  “three-body problem” that can never be resolved

1.                  Body one:  we possess, we live inside…the self we experience

2.                  Body two:  public façade…has form—subject of traditional artistic portrayal

3.                  Body three:  physical machine…estranged from; beauty covers and helps us deny

F.                  We long not only to be works of nature, but works of art

1.                  spiritual longing—to have an outer representation that matches our dreams

2.                  quest for love and acceptance—a face people long to look at and know

3.                  biologists:  genes pressing to be passed on, making their habitat as inviting to visitors as possible

IV.       The Beauty Canon

A.                 Beauty:  an aesthetic based on proportion, number, clarity, symmetry, harmony, and vivid color

1.                  Plato, St. Augustine, Aristotle, Cicero, and Plotinus all agree

B.                 Beauty resides in symmetry

1.                  Today:  symmetry is the exact correspondence of for on opposite sides of a dividing line, plane, or central axis

2.                  Greeks and Renaissance artists:  symmetry is the relation between and exact correspondence among parts, usually expressed in whole or rational numbers

C.     Artists throughout history have tried to capture the geometric proportions of beauty by devising measurement systems for the human body

1.                  Albrecht Durer:  length of middle finger as system

2.                  Renaissance:  divided profile guidelines

a.                   Leslie Farkas:  rate people and their “beauty,” compare measurements and beauty ratings with ideals

i.          suggests that the classical artists might have been wrong about the fundamental nature of human beauty

V.                 Beauty Satanic and Divine

A.                 Beauty is in the platonic Pure Form:  things of this world may offer us glimpses but never truly incarnate

1.                  Plato:  beauty made the spiritual physical

2.                  Thomas Mann:  “beauty alone is…the only form of the spiritual which we can receive through the senses.”

B.                 Christianityàattitude toward beauty became more ambivalent

1.         agonized struggle to reconcile beauty as temptation and beauty as God’s glory

a.                   beauty feared as sensual temptation and a worldly vanity

i.          St. Clement:  “there is nothing good in the flesh.”

ii.                   Teachings of Christ:  renounce temptation and transient things of the world

b.                  beauty revered as an image of God’s grace

i.                     Thomas Aquinas:  “Beauty is the mark of the well made”—an “imitation of an idea in the mind of the creator.”

ii.                   Genesis:  man is made in the image of God, His appearance is divine, and the more beautiful we are the more Godlike

c.                   Albrecht Durer:  the perfect beauty of Adam and Christ is a sign of their divinity; our imperfect beauty is a sign of our fall from grace

C.                 Attitudes toward beauty are entwined with our deepest conflicts surrounding flesh and the spirit

D.                 Psychoanalysis assumed a legacy of shame around the body

1.                  Freud:  beauty derives from sexual excitement that must be deflected away from its source

2.                  Freud:  too much cultivation of beauty is pathological narcissism—a female problem to cover shame and worthlessness

E.                  Cosmetic surgery:  refashioning of self

1.                  John Gedo:  similar to psychoanalysis in the attempt to alter character traits

2.                  Peter Kramer:  similar to “cosmetic psychopharmacology”—use of drugs to transform personality



Ashly’s Outline


I.                    The social sciences have not had much interest in the human body

A.       The SSSM argued mind was a blank slate

1.         Cultural Relavitism countered with arguments of behaviorism

II.                 The argument for beauty as a biological adaptation

A.       Beauty is a universal part of the human experience

1. We love to look at shiny hair curved waists, symmetrical bodies

B.        “Lookism”

1. Beautiful people are treated better from infancy to adulthood

III.               Children are sensitive to beauty from an early age

A.       Newborn’s Preferences are Formes Frustes of adult preferences

1.         Mickey Mouse and Bambi

B.        Mothers and attractive babies

1. Different kinds of attention depending on attractiveness



Stacy’s Outline

Beauty as a Way of Life


I. Appearance and Reality

A. Evolutionary Reasoning

1.  Appearance serves as a guide to what is good and bad        for us

B. Looks do Matter

1. Advertising in magazines and media

2. It is hard for the human mind to separate substance from surface 

II. The Injustice of the Given

A. Tests on honesty towards good looking people vs. plain looking people

1. 75 college males were more likely to volunteer for numerous favors, but only for a beautiful woman

B. People are more likely to help attractive people, even if they do not like them 

C. People are less likely to ask good looking people for help

III. Beauty as Status

A. Good-looking people have more privileges.

1. They are more likely to win arguments and persuade others

2. People are more likely to tell them personal information

3. People want to please attractive people

4. Attractive people tend to be more at ease socially

IV. To Whom Much is Expected, Much is Given

A. We expect good looking people to be better at everything

1. An experiment proved that teachers expected the good looking children to get better grades and be more popular

B. Good looking adults are more likely to get away with bad deeds

1. Shoplifting

2. Cheating on exams

3. They are less likely to be accused of doing anything bad

V. Packing Heat

A. People expect attractive people to be great in bed

1. Assumed to be very experienced

2. Expected to have a high sex drive

3. Expected to date more often





Sarah’s 3 things


1.              Beauty is defined as an experience, not as any definable traits.  Even with our emphasis on the symmetry of things, etc., there is nothing in particular that people can agree is “beautiful,” although they know it when they see it, and usually it is a common consensus.


2.              The author talks about beauty being made in a mold and then imitated, and then mentions that there is beauty in diversity, as Darwin says beauty does not fit a mold because then things would not be beautiful because they were boring.


3.              Freud’s statement that beauty derives from sexual excitement that must be deflected away from its source, and the shame that accompanies it.



Ashly’s 3 things

1.                  Unlike racism or sexism which we are conscious of, “lookism’ or beauty prejudice operates at a largely unconscious level. From infancy to adulthood, beautiful people are treated preferentially and viewed more positively.


2.                  No argument was made in this section that I did not agree with.


3.                    Why children are so sensitive to beauty, even at an early age.



Stacy’s 3 things


1.         Family and parents claim their newborn resembles the father for paternity assurance.


2.                  Beauty is an evolutionary concept.  An example would be, fruit that is brown or very green would indicate that it is bad or not ripe.  Another example would be the babies who stare into the faces of beautiful people for longer periods of times, in comparison to unattractive people.


3.         It would be beneficial if the author would go into more depth on the topic of why pleasure is always associated with beauty.