The Perceptions of Beauty

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There is a young girl, right now, staring in a mirror in a New York shopping mall observing her expanding waist. There is a girl, right now, forcing herself to run an extra mile so she can eat her favourite cheesecake tonight. There is a girl, right now, lying helplessly on an operating table about to go under the knife. There is a girl, at this very moment, wishing she was the beautiful Heidi Klum prancing down the runway of a Hollywood fashion show.

The saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is a complex phrase with many underlying questions. Different people possess different kinds of beauty and different cultures disagree on what is considered beautiful and what is not. So the question remains; why do physical attributes play such a vital role for success in people’s lives today? Some of the reasons will be discussed in this paper outlining the perception of beauty and the implications it has on people’s health, careers, and social development.

“The standards of beauty are universal both across individuals in a single culture and across all cultures” (Cunningham, Druen, and Barbee 1997: 112). If this is true, then the standards of beauty would be learned and acquired through years of socialization within cultures. One such explanation is that people from all cultures share the same standards of beauty because they are innate or born with these standards. In the mid 1980’s, infants as young as two and three months old took part in a study concerning beauty. It was concluded that the infants would stare longer at the faces who were considered to be attractive, than the faces that possess unattractive qualities. The study was conducted many years later and proved to show the same results with newborn babies. Another experiment involving 12 month old infants were shown strangers wearing masks. One of the strangers wore an attractive mask while the other wore and unattractive mask. The infants showed greater pleasure, playfulness, and more attachment when interacting with the stranger wearing the attractive mask. All of these studies demonstrate similar experience with parents of small children. For example most young children respond favourably to a good-looking person and cry when an unattractive person plays with them. Since young infants do not have enough time to learn this through socialization, it is safe to say beauty is innate or part of universal human nature (Miller and Kanazawa 2007: 65).

There are features that seem to represent physically attractive faces: “bilateral symmetry, averageness and secondary sexual characteristics” (Little 2002: 66). Attractive people are healthier, having greater physical fitness, and prove to live longer. With these qualities alone, one would naturally be attracted to the opposite sex for these reasons (Bloch 1994: 7).

The ideal of female beauty is blonde hair and blue eyes. Not even the media today has influenced the blonde bombshell theory. Women have been dying their fair hair for centuries. Even when there were no television or magazines, woman were still dying their hair blonde in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Why is blonde hair seen as attractive? There is evidence to suggest that woman were dying their hair blonde long before peroxide (a chemical used to color hair) was even discovered in 1812. It seems then that men have innate psychological mechanisms that predispose them to prefer women with blonde hair. “Peoples ideas are shaped and hard-wired and it is no coincidence that men prefer blondes” (Knight 2008: 26), states Matthew Bronstad of Brander’s University (Miller and Kanazawa 2007: 59).

A preference for blue eyes seems to be culturally accepted as an ideal. Blue eyes are not just considered to be attractive for woman but for men as well (Feinman and Gill 1978: 48).
It is not unusual for girls today to grow their hair long. Today girls are continually wanting longer locks due to the strong male preference for long hair. In the article “A...
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