Lookism: Physical Attractiveness and Good Looking People

Topics: Physical attractiveness, Physical Appearance, Aesthetics Pages: 6 (1828 words) Published: February 11, 2011

Gorgeous, stunning, cute, handsome, hot and pretty are a few adjectives commonly used to describe those one finds attractive. With so much positivity around beauty it is hard to imagine the damage to society it is causing. However in this paper we will discuss some of the dark facts related to beauty that are not visible to the naked eye. We will answer some questions which people didn’t even know had risen such as: Do ‘good looking people’ enjoy preferential treatment in society? Does discrimination based on a person’s exterior beauty exist? This paper explores the concept of beauty and the biases linked with it. What is lookism?

Lookism is a topic that has rarely been publicly acknowledged. The term was first used in the Washington Post Magazine in 1978, its explained as prejudice toward people due to their appearance (Tietje & Cresap, 2005). Lookism is not well understood despite its growing presence in today’s modern society. According to the American Disability Act (1990), it is not the traits of disability that lead to discrimination but it is the public’s perception of the impairment (Stalcup, 2007, p. 2). What this essentially means is that that any trait that departs from the social norm will likely be viewed as an impairment, therefore a target for discrimination. It will further be explained in the next section in relation to the biological preferences of animals and humans.

Biological perspective on beauty
Why is it that looks matter? Biology can help explain. Looks not only help animals to attract a potential mate but to also intimidate any potential competition. Secondary sex characteristics are developed when an animal(including humans) hit puberty. Members of the opposite sex are made aware that an animal is ready to mate when these characteristics off fertility are displayed. In humans they are mainly the development of breasts in females and more muscle definition in males. In the animal kingdom a female bird will first inspect a nest that has been built by a male bird before actually mating with him. Humans, whether they like to admit it or not are driven by similar urges of reproduction. However in humans, our preferences do differ from one another. Some men prefer tall and skinny women while others prefer big breasted ones with wide hips because they are seen as more capable of rearing a child. Despite all this there is one thing that adult humans, babies and animals prefer in common. That is symmetry. Symmetry has been scientifically proven to be attractive to the human eye. It has been defined as similarity between the right and left sides of the face. Starting with babies, they spend less time staring at pictures of asymmetric individuals as compared to symmetric ones. A program called FacePrints is utilized by Victor Johnston who works at New Mexico State University. Viewers are shown facial images of variable attractiveness. The pictures are then rated on a beauty scale from one to nine. Less attractive photos are blotted out while the attractive ones are merged together. Each trial is ended when the viewer deems a composite a perfect 10. It is found that all the perfect 10s are super-symmetric. The rationale behind the preference for symmetry in humans and animals is that symmetric individuals have a higher mate-value. Scientists believe that symmetry exudes a better immune system. Thus, beauty is indicative of improving the likelihood that an individual's offspring will survive as it will have superior genes. According to a study at the University of Louisville, when viewers were shown pictures of different individuals ranging from Asians to Latinos to whites from 13 different countries, they all had generic preferences when rating others as attractive – they were those that had the most symmetric faces.

Sociological perspective
Social scientists have termed the association of physical attractiveness...

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Tietje, L., & Cresap, S
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