Biological and Evolutionary Reasons of Mate Choice

Topics: Physical attractiveness, Sexual selection, Body shape Pages: 19 (5556 words) Published: January 10, 2013
Rules of attraction: Biological and evolutionary reasons of mate choice


Within the past decade we have witnessed a series of new developments and an enormously growing interest in the understanding of human behaviour, especially when it comes to the basic principles of human mate choice. Mate preference is something which is often considered a very individual choice and appears to be influenced by cultural and economic norms. However, on the basis of numerous research works, it is a today’s acceptation that attractiveness represents a signal resulting from sexual selection. Although we have different preference for facial expression, body shape or height, recent findings suggest that mate preferences are mainly cued on certain visual signals and might reveal genetic quality to prospective mates.

In this paper those findings will be reviewed by highlighting which visual characters of the face and body affect our choice for a partner. Also influences through cultural and economical norms as well as the influence of the media will be considered in order to evaluate the hypothesis whether attractiveness is based on visual signals or is lying in the eye of the beholder.

Key words: mate choice, sexual selection, facial beauty, body features, beauty standards


1.‘WHAT IS BEAUTIFUL IS GOOD?’ – AN INTRODUCTION- 1 - 2.ON THE TRACES OF BEAUTY: JDUGMENT AND BENEFIT OF ATTRACTIVE FACES- 3 - 2.1The average face (‘averageness hypothesis’)- 3 - 2.2The influences of symmetry and why symmetric faces are attractive- 5 - 2.3Sexual dimorphism and single characteristic of male and female faces- 6 - 3.BODY FEATURES- 8 -



Beauty is a topic, which has fascinated mankind for centuries. Poetry, art, philosophy or, since modern times, the media, have been extensively concerned with it. The realizations gained from these areas grant a view of the ideals of beauty and preferences of different epochs. In ancient times beauty was tried to be described by geometrical rules. In the aesthetics teachings of Pythagoras and later in the ones of Aristotle regularity, symmetry and size stood in the foreground. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) believed that the perfect body length could be expressed by a generally valid amount of face lengths (The Vitruvian Man). They all looked for the right proportions of human beauty and many of their considerations to express human beauty in terms of measured values influence the ideals of beauty until today (e.g. the golden ratio).

But what then is ‘beautiful’? Obviously, our ideal of beauty can change. Until the beginning of the 20th century paintings predominantly showed women with opulent curves- an ideal that nowadays society disapproves of. Women presented in today's media are mostly slim; quite contrary to the once attractive ‘Rubens- women’ Within fractions of seconds we judge whether a person appeals to us or not - the so called first impression. However, when asked why, we mostly lack a sufficient explanation for this judgment. What then, if any, are the signals or norms on which we base our opinion?

If we approach this topic from a biological point of view, a likely explanation becomes evident as we put beauty in a context with sexual selection and evolution.

In 1871 Charles Darwin recognized the relation between mating choice and evolution and he was the first one to state this finding. “We are, however, here concerned only with that kind of selection, which I have called sexual selection. This depends on the advantage which certain individuals have over other individuals of the same sex and species, in exclusive relation to reproduction.” (C. Darwin, 1871, Vol. 1, p. 256)

According to Darwin two important mechanisms underlie sexual selection, namely...

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