An interesting piece on the perception of human beauty in the Wilson Quarterly. It’s a totally non-scientific amalgamation of information from a bunch of scientific articles, none of which I’ve read (nor do I plan on reading) and interviews with researchers in the field. It’s all fascinating, but deserves to be taken with a grain of salt.
We infer a great deal from people’s looksâ€”not just when it comes to mating (where looks matter profoundly), but in almost every other aspect of life as well, including careers and social status. It may not be true that blondes have more fun, but it’s highly likely that attractive people do, and they start early. Mothers pay more attention to good-looking babies, for example, but, by the same token, babies pay more attention to prettier adults who wander into their field of vision. Attractive people are paid more on the job, marry more desirable spouses, and are likelier to get help from others when in evident need. Nor is this all sheer, baseless prejudice. Human beings appear to be hard-wired to respond to how people and objects look, an adaptation without which the species might not have made it this far. The unpleasant truth is that, far from being only skin deep, our looks reflect all kinds of truths about difference and desireâ€”truths we are, in all likelihood, biologically programmed to detect.