Beauty and the Brain

Numerous studies demonstrate that good looking people have a measurable advantage in life. How do we determine what is “good looking”? According to neurologist Anjan Chatterjee, it’s because of the way our brains evolved. We are, he says, wired to see as beautiful “the average of all the physical factors that determine reproductive success.”

In men, for example, muscles and high cheekbones are attractive because they indicate strength. In women, an hourglass body shape is attractive because it indicates the ability to bear children.

Conversely, wrinkled skin is unattractive because it indicates old age. And physical deformities are unattractive because they vary from “average.”

Interestingly, what we think of as beautiful is actually the average look of a healthy body. This was discovered by using a computer to blend together thousands of photos of healthy men and women. The result was images that are almost identical to what most people consider to be “good looking.”

Of course, we all know that physical beauty indicates neither goodness nor intelligence. But the “prejudice” to view people that way is deep in our brains. So deep that we need to consciously discriminate against it “if we wish to treat people fairly.”