Beauty And The Brain

Is Beauty In The Eye Of The Beholder?

Throughout history, ever-changing beauty standards upheld by mainstream media have paved the way for what we classify as being beautiful. 

From Kylie Lip Kits, false lashes and drawn on abs, we as a society are obsessed with how we look. We spend countless hours, money and time on improving our physical appearances in an attempt to reach unattainable standards of beauty. 

However, have you ever wondered how the standards of beauty impact the brain?

Don’t fear. We’re here to tell all. 

Generally speaking, men and women use different strategies to make themselves more appealing. 

The research from the study Perception and Deception: Human Beauty and the Brain suggests that from a biological perspective, beautifying ourselves can help to “maximise reproductive success.” In layman terms, this is making ourselves look good to attract a mate and have loads of babies. 

So how does the brain decide if someone is attractive or not?

Well, it’s quite simple. The brain is pretty good at deciphering whether or not someone is attractive. To do this, it employs three modules – or cognitive domains – “composed of interconnected brain regions to judge facial attractiveness: one for identification, one for interpretation and one for valuing.” 

Within these modules, there are six features the brain looks for when determining how attractive someone is:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Symmetry
  • Averageness
  • Face and body proportions
  • Facial colour and texture. 

For your brain, the combination of these features determines the reproductive fitness of the person.

However, beauty is no longer just a way for us to attract mates to create loads of babies. 

Research in The Neuroscience of Personal Appearance and Beauty notes that people feel better about themselves when they think they are attractive to others and that attractiveness has become:

A part of our status ranking among our same-sex peers, and we actively deceive others and ourselves about our appearance.

The Neuroscience of Personal Appearance and Beauty

Regarding “deceive others”, this is in the form of cosmetic procedures, makeup, and change of hair colour. These things “deceive” the brain by potentially masking the age, health and facial colour/texture. Resulting in the brain becoming potentially confused.

Gender, Brain And Beauty

Brain imaging demonstrates that male and female brains react differently when checking out an “absolute hottie.” For male subjects, the “ventromedial prefrontal cortex” is more sensitive to physical attributes such as “youthfulness and gender of faces than female subjects.”  

Men also spend more effort to view beautiful women’s faces than men’s faces. Meanwhile, women “spend less energy and equivalent amounts to view both beautiful men’s and women’s faces.” Deception and Perception notes overall that men show “slower response times to beautiful faces than women.” Demonstrating larger cognitive capacity while looking at faces.

So it turns out, beauty IS in the eye of the beholder… to a certain extent. Beauty can be complicated, and its definition varies from person to person.

There is one thing for sure – the brain is good at finding beauty and seeing it. 

So next time you’re swiping through Tinder or come across a seductive stranger, don’t listen to your heart – listen to your brain!

Check out some of our other posts:

Sources Cited:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6523404/

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308874870_The_Neuroscience_of_Personal_Appearance_and_Beauty

Sajal Azam

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