Anyone who has seen a "Ranjhnaa" movie will know how much attractiveness matters to teenagers. However, there is no doubt that attractiveness may give people an edge and they may sometimes use to others’ disadvantage. But is it only among teenagers?
As it turns out, that’s not quite true. Attractiveness plays a huge role in mate-selection and marriage partners throughout life. It even impacts political campaigns and careers.
We already know how it affects the world of acting.
But why is it that we prefer attractiveness?
Is there something to this beyond the ‘good look’ aspect?
Or is this just socialization, that is, we were raised such that attractiveness has a high social value, and it is so ingrained that we believe in it?
A lot of research has been done independently on attractiveness and popularity as well as combining the two together.
In a nutshell, popularity research suggests that there actually are 2 kinds of popularity.
1st is likeability, or how much people like you.
2nd is social dominance or how much access to resources you have.
It may seem like the same thing but there is a subtle difference. The latter means you get what you want, and the former means people find you nice and approachable. The latter kind is what becomes really important from adolescence onwards.
Babies also prefer ‘attractive’ faces.
Research on attractiveness shows that babies who do not actually have any exposure to media or socialization that may gear them towards attractive, also prefer ‘attractive’ faces. But aspects of a face that make it attractive are symmetry and pleasantness (no frowns, more smiles). When researchers averaged faces using software, the more faces they combined for an average, the more attractive it looked to respondents.
Therefore, attractiveness suggests symmetry and averageness – which suggests safety and health.
Evolution suggests that a person with a healthy genetic trait (as inferred by attractiveness/symmetry) is more likely to be a good add to one’s potential gene pool. A pleasant face is also less likely to belong to a person who may not harm us. However, there are some social traits that go with attractiveness when it comes to adolescents and adults.
Theorists suggest that because attractiveness makes us prefer attractive people more, these people get more attention from parents, other children as well as other adults, which gives them a lot more practice is social skills than others who are not perceived as attractive. So if attractive people do have better social skills that take them places (money, status, promotion, power, a wealthy life partner) – it’s simply because they got more practice!
What does it boil down to?
Yes, attractiveness is important. But, it is NOT what teen magazines stress. Attractiveness is about pleasantness and symmetry in face, posture, dressing and behaviour. So the old ‘be presentable’ adage your parents and grandparents would speak about? It’s totally legit. Attractiveness, for the most part, is presentability.