What Makes Someone Appear Attractive?

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of "One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan," one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. She is also a mother of three children - all labeled as either autistic, gifted, or creatively artistic. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

You’ve probably heard that quote hundreds of times. We all know that real beauty is far more than what we see of a person’s exterior. Real beauty shows forth from the heart, and that is what this quote insinuates. After all, an attractive woman or man can look pretty ugly if she or he is hateful, mean, and egotistical to an extreme. Yet, a person who you may not consider physically attractive can be one of the most beautiful people you’d ever meet if he or she is loving, caring, and compassionate.

So, why doesn’t true beauty correlate with physical attraction? What makes a person physically attractive at first sight? Is it media and culture that dictates who deserves more attention than others? Or, is there something more scientific about the perception of human beauty?

Perception of beauty and physical attraction.
Perception of beauty and physical attraction. | Source

Perception of Beauty and Society's Influences

Throughout time, culture has defined beauty in many ways. One culture may also present the concept as different from another. Societies have even adjusted this subjective concept as objective for women to feel beautiful.

However, we can blame society and its influences on us for the scrutiny we put ourselves through. After all, media has portrayed a certain appearance as ideal. Due to critical observation of others, we strive to become just like those that media has cast as beautiful, handsome, feminine, masculine, and sexy.

It seems that everywhere you turn, some form of media image is trying to influence you. According to a study published in the Paediatrics & Child Health journal (2003, May-June), “the influence of media on the psychosocial development of children is profound.” That influence can be positive or negative depending on what the feed is. The perception of beauty amongst children can even be found in fairy tales and bedtime stories such as Cinderella. “What is beautiful is good” and “beautiful is good at getting others to do what (s)he wants” suggests that the power of beauty does exist as social influence evidence according to a paper presented to the American Psychological Association in 1992.

Alongside media and childhood nurturing, consumerism plays a role with promoting beauty. From fashion and cosmetics to Botox and plastic surgery, we are constantly directed to the way we look. After all, the opinions of others do matter to most of us. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2013 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report, 15.1 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2013. Breast augmentation, nose reshaping, liposuction, eyelid surgery, and facelift are the top five procedures in both women and men.

With those statistics, we can assume that a major portion of our population is not happy with the appearance of their bodies. Social influences are sure to have played a role with our outlook.

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The Science of Physical Attraction to Beauty

Though social influences play a role on how we perceive beauty in the human body, science tells us that physical attraction to beauty is real.

In 1756, Philosopher Edmund Burke wrote, “We must conclude that beauty is, for the greater part, some quality in bodies, acting mechanically upon the human mind by the intervention of the senses.

According to the article On Psychology and Physiology of Beauty published at Psychology of Beauty, there are some very specific biologically based factors that affect our perception of beauty. Among these are symmetry and fertility.

Whick Nick Scott Do You Find More Physically Attractive?

Nick Scott - Unhealthy.
Nick Scott - Unhealthy. | Source
Nick Scott - Healthy.
Nick Scott - Healthy. | Source

Symmetry

Performed extensively, scientific studies have shown average faces are more attractive. Average faces are highly symmetrical, and this is reported to be more attractive according to a study published in Perception & Psychophysics (2007, November).

So, what does symmetry have to do with attraction? Theory explains that it may be a marker for genetic quality. As they wanted to pass good genes to their children, our ancestors looked down on traits that may indicate poor health or detriment by the opposite sex. In fact, a study published in the journal Economics and Human Biology (2011, July) discovered that adult “faces were more asymmetrical tended to have more difficult and deprived childhoods.”

Fertility

During ovulation, studies reported women to be more physically attracted to men who are rugged and dominant-looking. Dominance may also indicate genetic fitness. Additionally, women are drawn to men with the strongest immune systems which correlates to higher levels of the male hormone, testosterone. Women’s sexual desires also increased during ovulation, as well as their preferences for more dominant-looking men.

On the other side, men also find fertile women more attractive. The journal Hormones and Behavior (2013, January) found that ovulation changes a woman’s allure, as well as her behavior. Previous studies also show that men are more attracted to a woman’s voice and smell during ovulation, as well as the way she moves – particularly in dance. Other studies even show that women taking birth control are not as attractive to men as their physiological chemicals have changed.

Finding Your True Beauty and Attraction

So, it seems that both psychology and physiology both play a role when perceiving human beauty. Psychology may be a little easier to control. By tuning out media ads portraying the ideal face and body, you can look within yourself and others for true beauty. However, it would be a bit more difficult to determine who is or isn’t attracted to you or vice versa due to physiology.

Physiology can be a tricky thing to change to a certain extent. But, if you recall earlier in this hub, we talked about those with the strongest immune systems being the most attractive to women. It goes the same for men who find women hormonally healthy. Unlike the days of old where we had little control of our living conditions or what we ate, you do have that benefit. Even if you were born or grew up underprivileged with illness, you can still contribute to your physiology today.

Build your immunity and balance your hormones through good health principles: diet, exercise, and rest. Does that mean that you’ll be so beautiful that all those of the opposite gender will be attracted to you? Not necessarily. However, a healthy body will help the chemical processes of your physiology.

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Helping those who desire it!
Helping those who desire it! | Source

About the Author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, published author, and a naturopathic doctorate candidate. For more than a decade, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Hundreds have also consulted with her on gluten- and lactose-free diets due to health concerns such as Celiacs, depression, and developmental disabilities. Abby is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. She has been married for more than 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 20+ year cancer survivor.

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4 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

It's an interesting question for sure. I know I'm only attracted to a particular appearance....I have no idea why...and once that appearance is found, it becomes a matter or personality and the "it" factor.


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 22 months ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

LOL, Bill. It's been interesting learning the physiological aspect of attraction... didn't realize there was so much science involved. Even phermones play a part, but I'll have to save that for another hub. Thanks for commenting. :-)


dashingscorpio profile image

dashingscorpio 22 months ago

You said: "...we can blame society and its influences on us for the scrutiny we put ourselves through." Nevertheless (we) are society!

The media is a "for profit" business.

They will continue do whatever generates sells, viewers, listeners, or Internet click throughs. If a Super Hero movie becomes a blockbuster then Hollywood will churn out more Super Hero movies. If having Kim Kardashian on the cover of a magazine sell a million copies...guess what? You're going to see Kim on the cover of a lot of other magazines.

In fact 20 years ago women with large butts were not "in vogue". With the advent Jennifer Lopez along with the popularity of Hip/hop rap videos the mainstream started to place just as a high value on a woman's behind as her breasts. Note minority men have always treasured this asset.

Today just about every woman is busy doing squats and lunges to either increase the size of their behind or it's roundness. For those who can't accomplish it there are products like "Booty Pop!" to wear under clothes.

Consumer dollars control the media. Whenever there is a backlash over a comment someone makes on TV. The first thing sponsors do is evaluate whether or not to sponsor that show anymore as they don't want to offend (their customers). We get more of whatever we buy!

It's unrealistic to expect a company to stop doing something that is profitable in order to appease those vocal small groups who are not their customers.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We see evidence of this each time we step out of our homes. There are folks in the local Wal-Mart, grocery store, mall, on the bus/train, in the movie theatre, at the park/beach or in church whom you would never ever consider going out with BUT they have managed to find a mate for themselves! There are no excuses!

Thankfully there are over 7 Billion people and 196 countries in the world!

Odds are in everyone's favor that there are more than a few people who would find us attractive. Rejection and loneliness has a way of making people play the "blame game". Most people would rather attempt to change the world than to change themselves!

The reality is everyone is entitled to have their own preferences whether others deem them to be shallow or not. It's their life and they have the right choose their friends, lovers, and spouse based upon their criteria.

As man I find it ironic how so many men would complain saying "nice guys finish last" while they ignored the "nice girl" sitting next to them!

It's the old adage: I won't join a club that would have me for a member.

I've heard women to call men "shallow" for not dating overweight women while at the same time they refuse to date men who are shorter than them! Everyone has their own "check list" of desired traits! :)


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 22 months ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you for your insight, dashingscorpio. As you've said, media does have its place in influencing society and vice versa. While "everyone is entitled to have their own preferences," we still have a better understanding on the "physiological" aspect of physical attraction - not just the psychological. Thanks to science, we are more knowledgeable about why we choose the way we do. ;-)

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