Beauty and the Face
Why is physical beauty so important in today’s society, especially in consumer marketing?
Psychology Today reports on the unethical aspects of beauty as it is represented in main stream media. They report that facial symmetry has been shown to be the key determinant in our estimating of what is seen as beautiful and what’s not.
The article asks a simple yet poignant question, “If you were to set your sights, say, on a shopping mall, a fast-food restaurant (vs. a swanky one), an amusement park, or just out on the street, what percentage of the people around you would you label “truly beautiful?”
That is, individuals sufficiently attractive enough for a modeling agency. Five percent? 10 percent? Maybe 15?
To clarify, the article is referring more to facial appearance than overall physical attractiveness when they notate beauty. This is because faces are what people are drawn to and focus on the most in interactions with other people.
Extremely attractive people are over represented in movies and TV, so that we might begin to entertain the illusion that they depict something much closer to the norm than is actually the case. The article goes on to ask, should we compare ourselves to these “model few”, or does doing so create a complex about our ordinary (specifically normal) looks even if it is subconscious?
Research by Anjan Chatterjee and his research team demonstrated that although certain physical aspects of beauty may be culturally influenced, there’s a high degree of cross-cultural accord (both with adults and children) as to what’s seen as beautiful. These findings provide compelling evidence that these aesthetic perceptions are “encoded” by what’s common in our biology—that finally our biases are determined by factors both out of awareness and universal.
They noted (Chatterjee et al), “A person’s attractiveness influences social interactions in ways that extend far beyond domains in which attractiveness per se [e.g., modeling] is directly relevant.” Or, to put it somewhat differently, facial beauty—as it’s automatically, or genetically, “computed” in our heads—steers us toward a favorable “ bias independent of a particular person’s educational or social history, past performance, or character.
As the article points our we can see the practical power of beauty as well as its random distribution as unjust…