by Alex Lemieux
It is commonly disputed as to whether beauty has a factual definition and if people are born with a preconception as to what beauty is. Many people would say that we have a unique interpretation of what is defined as beautiful yet there is a strong consensus as to which individuals and objects are said to be beautiful. To what degree is this judgement of beauty concurred by those within the same environment and society? Are there certain qualities of personalities that define beauty or is beauty only defined by looks?
I would agree that certain objects or sights are universally defined as beautiful but this is not due to the fact we have been influenced to be drawn to it but more because of the way in which our brain has evolved and the way in which it responds to the sight. Take a sunset for example; the reason that we, as humans, find it beautiful is because the gentle orange glow we observe makes us have a feeling a safety as it is similar to a fire which was a key part of our evolution into Homo Sapiens. There is also the link with a sunset being the end of a day and the turning of a page, meaning that the troubles of our day can be metaphorically represented by the orange glow of the sky, generated by the sun, slowly becoming darkness as we let them go and start anew the next day with a fresh new sky.
In the instance of how we view beauty in a person, there is evidence to say that each person defines beauty in their own way despite the environment or society they were brought up in although this could impact some. Researchers asked 547 pairs of identical twins and 214 pairs of same-gender fraternal twins to look at 200 faces and rate them on a scale of one to seven with one being the least attractive and seven being the most. If genes were greatly influential in our perception of beauty, the identical twins would have had similar ratings and if the environment we grew up was more influential, fraternal twins would have also answered similarly. However, the majority of twin’s results were quite different from one another, which would suggest that something else drives our perception of beauty. This drive most likely is to be our individual life experiences, exhibiting that beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder.
Despite this, it is very clear that social forces do affect our perception of physical attractiveness. For example, in the media the people that are perceived as being the most attractive tend to be tall and thin if they are female and lean and muscular if they are male. We, as a generation, have grown up with media surrounding us and so, from a young age, we have grown to view these figures as attractive due to the way that they are reported on and admired for the way they look. You also have the fact that those who are on the front covers of magazines and those who model for adverts and clothing brands are those who are socially seen as the most attractive and from a young age children are exposed to this and it is likely they will aspire to look like that, especially girls. Surely this image of what beauty is, is put to us from a young age without us realising? In fact, the modern preference for a woman’s BMI causes men to pursue women that are too thin for optimal fertility and the skinniness of them is actually putting them at a health risk. The reason for their figure is likely to be due to the social pressure to be thin and therefore ‘attractive’.
In spite of the evolutionary and social forces that influence our opinion, being in a romantic relationship with someone also increases how attractive you view them in contrast with how a third party would view them. This is simply because of the impact of love which alters reality slightly as you overlook flaws which any other person would see and rate them down on. In addition to this, being in a romantic relationship will generally cause you to rate those of the same sex to your partner less favourably than single individuals would. This could be because you simply don’t want to view someone else as more attractive than your partner as this leads to the doubt that perhaps your partner isn’t the right person after all but it is also possible that the feeling of love creates the illusion that no one is more physically attractive than your partner. Of course physical attraction is not a factual thing and cannot be agreed on as science can be but when a group of people are asked to rate a set of people on their attractiveness, certain individuals will consistently come out with higher ratings and others with lower ratings but that doesn’t go to say that all the people asked had the same perception of beauty.
Physical attraction is not the only thing that defines beauty as what’s inside also plays a part since once you get to know someone and you discover they’re rude and obnoxious, surely you don’t carry on seeing them as a beautiful being? I am not denying the fact that physical attraction plays a part in beauty, as it clearly does, but I am saying that personality is what completes beauty and with this in mind, it is clear that everyone has a different opinion to what attributes complete their perfect partner. Some people would say a sense of humour is key to the perfect relationship yet others feel intelligence is a must so this would say that every person does define beauty in their own way. Of course, some people are attracted to certain characteristics because one of their parents has it and they feel that based on their parents relationship, it is something they would want in their partner such as thoughtfulness or perhaps intimacy but in the end it is still their perception despite an influence from their surroundings.
To conclude, I feel that beauty is defined by oneself and despite the influences we have from our surroundings, we make our own judgment on what beauty is, whether it’s inside or out. Many people may have the same taste in men or women but none of their perceptions will be identical due to the complexity of beauty as it doesn’t define as one thing.