Since the 1960s, a mountain of research has been conducted on human attractiveness. Between the years 2000 and 2005, for example, more research has been conducted on physical attractiveness and evolution than the whole of the 1990s, which encompasses more than 300 articles!
The main question — “Do ‘pretty people’ have an advantage over us normal folk?” — remains compelling. And according to research, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
Whether dealing with picking a mate, getting a job, or having a higher income, attractive people are edging out the rest of society.
“As might be expected, attractive people have greater choice in mating markets and hence are able to secure consensually more desired partners,” writes the authors of one study. “But attractive people are treated differently from others more generally, leading them to have better jobs, higher incomes, and more friends than others.”
And this applies across most cultures, too. That is to say, it isn’t just us fickle Americans who prize attractiveness. According to researchers Steven W. Gangestad and Glenn J. Scheyd, “Physical attractiveness appears to have important implications in traditional cultures too.”
The implications, for example, are that Ache women, a culture of hunter-gatherers who live in Eastern Paraguay, seem to be better off than the rest of the population and are more highly prized. What’s more, female preferences in the U.K. and Sri Lanka revealed that women in both countries “prefer lean, muscular male body types most, followed by average and then skinny body types.” It appears, then, that valuing attractiveness is a human universal.
Highlights of attractiveness:
• Highly attractive women’s faces are more feminine than average.
• Both men and women discriminate the desirability of potential mates, partly on the basis of physical qualities.
• On average, attractive people have higher incomes, better mate choice, and more friends.
• Men universally prefer women with a low waist-to-hip ratio.
Evolution seems to hold the answer as to why this phenomenon exists.
It works like this: in mammalian behavior, “[f]emales are typically a limiting reproductive resource and, hence, males compete through intrasexual competition and through signaling for females.” In other words, men compete for the attention of females. That remains well known. However, both men and women — once successful on the mating scene — pass on their genes, their preferences, to the next generation, reinforcing their idea of what counts as attractive and what does not.
To conclude, attractive people have an edge when it comes to incomes, jobs, friends, and mate choice. According to researchers, this seems to be a human universal.
Source: “The Evolution of Human Physical Attractiveness,” Annual Review of Anthropology, Steven W. Gangestad and Glenn J. Scheyd, 2005.