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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Human physical characteristics and their perception by the brain are under pressure by natural selection to optimize reproductive success. Men and women have different strategies to appear attractive and have different interests in identifying beauty in people.
Nevertheless, men and women from all cultures agree on who is and who is not attractive, and throughout the world attractive people show greater acquisition of resources and greater reproductive success than others. The brain employs at least three modules, composed of interconnected brain regions, to judge facial attractiveness: one for identification, one for interpretation and one for valuing.
Key elements that go into the judgment are age and health, as well as symmetry, averageness, face and body proportions, facial color and texture. These elements are all Costly als of reproductive fitness because they are difficult to fake. However, people deceive others using tricks such as coloring hair, cosmetics and clothing styles, while at the same time they also focus on detecting fakes.
People may also deceive themselves, especially about their own attractiveness, and use self-ally actions to demonstrate to themselves their own true value. The neuroscience of beauty is best understood by considering the evolutionary pressures to maximize reproductive fitness. Human nature includes a desire to be attractive, and historically much of the fine arts are depictions of human beauty.
Much time, money and emotional energy are spent in improving our appearance to reach a goal of beauty. People feel better about themselves when they think they are attractive to others. We devote portions of our brains to evaluating characteristics of attractiveness that are remarkably similar among cultures. Our bodies are shaped not only for function but also to match the image of attractiveness to others. Attractiveness is part of our status ranking among our same-sex peers, and we actively deceive others and ourselves about our personal appearance.
This review is crafted to place the study of personal appearance and beauty in the context of evolutionary biology. This theoretical framework best explains the quirkiness, universality and unexpected behaviors of people striving to be attractive and seeking out beautiful people. However, those phenotypes that directly improve the chances of reproduction, such as attracting mates and obtaining help in raising children, are under even stronger selection pressure, since they directly influence the frequency with which those genes are passed to the next generation.
Men and women have different strategies for reproductive success that were honed during tens of thousands of prehistoric years. Women seek men for partners who will contribute material resources as well as good genes to their children, while men seek one or more female partners with good genes, some of whom they may provide with resources. The strategy of each sex includes advertising to potential mates, and competing members of the same sex, to demonstrate that he or she is valuable reviewed in [ 1 ].
Assessments of attractiveness are surprisingly similar between men and women and among groups of people. A meta-analysis, covering studies and over 15, observers, reported that people agree, both within cultures and across cultures, Why are people beautiful is attractive and who is not [ 2 ]. Men and women as well as people of all ages agree on who is attractive. This strongly suggests that judgments of physical attractiveness are hard-wired in human genetics, likely fixed at an early stage in our evolution.
These assessment tools are available at a remarkably early stage of human development. Six-month-old infants gazed longer at faces judged by adults as attractive and spent less time looking at faces that were judged as not attractive [ 3 ]. Attractiveness is the most important predictor of who gets the preferred choice in mates [ 4 ].
In fact, in the modern world, physical attractiveness is ificantly associated with reproductive success [ 5 ]. A woman who chooses a male partner who contributes not only good genetic material but also provides resources will on average be more successful than a woman without such support [ 6 ]. This means that attractiveness and the ability to accurately detect attractiveness are under evolutionary selective pressure.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Why are people beautiful brain has developed specialized systems to accurately assess attractiveness characteristics, such as age, health and reproductive potential.
The most extensive research on the brain regions used in assessing beauty has been reported for facial recognition [ 7 ] and less research has been reported on body judgments [ 8 ]. Brain loci used to judge the beauty of faces are distinct in distribution and activation intensity from those used to assess the beauty of non-facial visual art [ 9 ], reflecting the evolutionary salience of facial beauty.
While a few loci have been linked together to suggest a pathway for the evaluation of beauty, this is not to suggest that this is the only way the brain makes these judgments and, under special conditions, the plasticity of the brain may invoke other regions to participate in reaching assessments.
The brain uses at least three modules, or cognitive domains, in deciding the value Why are people beautiful attractiveness. The occipital and temporal regions of the cortex are used first to process face views [ 10 ].
The inferior occipital gyri IOG perceives facial features and passes the information to the fusiform face area FFA of the fusiform gyrus FG for facial recognition [ 11 ]. The FFA recognizes and processes the location of facial features especially the eyes, nose, and mouth and their spacing [ 12 ].
People have distinct eye movement patterns scan path routines when they judge unfamiliar faces [ 13 ], and they simultaneously engage the FFA region during this routine [ 14 ]. Damage to the FFA causes prosopagnosia, a condition in which patients are unable to recognize faces by sight or accurately judge facial attractiveness, although they can recognize the same people by voice [ 915 ].
The FG very quickly responds more strongly to attractive faces than unattractive ones [ 16 ], suggesting that the ease of recognition of attractive features occurs perhaps even before the rest of the brain is included in the evaluation. The IOG connects to the second module, including the superior temporal sulcus STS for interpretation of facial movement, such as eye gaze, lip Why are people beautiful and facial expressions [ 8 ]. The FFA and IOG then interact with other brain regions, such as the occipital face area OFA and the ventral anterior temporal lobes vATLs for feature abstraction and assessment [ 17 ], and the amygdala, insula and limbic system for the emotional content of facial expressions and movement [ 8 ].
Information from the STS is also passed to the third module, the orbitofrontal cortex OFCincluding the nucleus accumbens, for making judgments of beauty and producing the neurological rewards dopamine and other neurotransmitters for finding it [ 18 ]. The OFC responds with greater activity to attractive versus unattractive faces [ 6 ]. When men were shown faces of beautiful women while their brains were scanned by fMRI, the attractive faces specifically activated the nucleus accumbens in the caudate region of the brain, when compared to viewing average faces [ 19 ].
Transcranial stimulation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex dlPFC increased the perceived attractiveness of faces but did not affect other facial judgments such as age [ 20 ]. These studies suggest that the value but not the features of the face are decided in these third module cortical regions.
Human bodies, both self and others, are selectively perceived in the temporal lobes by the extrastriate body area EBA and the fusiform body area FBAwhether they are full body representations, stick figures or silhouettes [ 21 ]. The OFC, particularly the nucleus accumbens and anterior cingulate cortex, are then used in judging the beauty of nude bodies [ 22 ].
Similar regions of the brain are used in evaluating sculptures and similarly posed real human bodies [ 23 ]. Male and female brains activate differently while evaluating appearance and beauty, consistent with their differences in reproductive strategy. For heterosexuals, opposite-sex faces stimulate assessment and reward brain systems, such as the amygdala, cingulate and insular cortices, more than same-sex faces, ifying they hold greater salience [ 6 ].
Men show slower response times to beautiful faces than women, evidencing greater cognitive load while processing attractive faces [ 25 ]. Consistent with this, brain imaging studies show that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex vmPFC of male subjects is more sensitive to physical attributes, such as the youthfulness and gender of faces, than female subjects [ 26 ]. The sex hormones, testosterone in men and estrogen in women, largely drive the body and facial features that define attractiveness, and also reshape the brain to detect and value these features.
The onset of puberty ramps up hormone levels and reshapes the male and female bodies. Men increase their shoulder to waist ratio, their beards grow, and their jawlines become more pronounced. For women, breasts develop, the hips to waist ratio increases, and their jawlines and facial features become softer. Women are so attuned to the facial features of men that simply by looking at their photographs they can correctly rank order a group of men based on their saliva testosterone level [ 27 ].
Interestingly, while a woman tends to prefer a man with high testosterone for an affair, she prefers a little less testosterone for a long-term mate, and her parents who might have to help take care of any babies if the man Why are people beautiful tend to prefer even a little less testosterone [ 28 ]. On the other hand, estrogen monotonically drives female beauty [ 29 ]. The same result was found for faces of European, African and Asian descent [ 30 ]. In another study, estrogen was measured in women over the course of their monthly cycles.
Both men and other women rated their attractiveness. Women with higher estrogen levels had higher ratings of femininity, attractiveness and health. Youth is a major component of facial attractiveness [ 32 ] and underlies most of the specific characteristics people look for in judging attractiveness. Older faces are judged as less attractive, less likeable, less distinctive, and less energetic [ 33 ]. The appearance of aging past the prime of life is an assault on self-esteem and confidence [ 34 ].
In particular, age is used, along with other skin and body s, to assess standing in the community, desirability as a partner, and reproductive potential [ 3536 ]. Traditionally, men more than women tend to accumulate resources with age which makes them more attractive partnerswhile women more than men tend to lose fertility with age. Just by viewing a swatch of skin people are able to correctly judge age, with a correlation coefficient of more than 0. Why are people beautiful most important factors in judging age from facial images are the size of the eyes and the lips, and the evenness of skin tone, regardless of what that tone might be [ 34 ].
Assessments of health often overlap assessments of age in determining beauty, such as in the case of the sclera, or white part of the eyes. Sclera become darker and colored with age or poor health, and the whiteness of sclera are strongly correlated with the perception of youth, health and attractiveness [ 40 ].
Throughout the animal kingdom, and certainly among people, body symmetry is a strong al of past and present health. Bilateral symmetry is a of the absence of congenital or developmental defect, malnutrition or parasitic infection, all of which are common maladies in subsistence living [ 41 ].Why are people beautiful
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Perception and Deception: Human Beauty and the Brain