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Is Love in Our DNA?

Consider this...
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Anthropologists maintain culture plays a heavy role in what each group defines as beautiful. For example, fatness is considered not particularly attractive in our modern society, but is considered a sign of wealth and prosperity in other cultures ... Also, tastes change over time. What was beautiful, fashionable, and attractive twenty years ago may look rather silly today. Take large side-burns on men. They've come and gone in fashion many times over the past hundred years, so frequently that men who have them ought to keep a razor handy.
--Meredith Small, What's Love Got to Do With It?, 1995

The idea that beauty is unimportant or a cultural construct is the real beauty myth. We have to understand beauty, or we will always be enslaved by it ... beauty is a universal part of human experience ... it provokes pleasure, rivets attention, and impels actions that help ensure the survival of our genes. Our extreme sensitivity to beauty is hard-wired, that is, governed by circuits in the brain shaped by natural selection. We love to look at smooth skin, thick shiny hair, curved waists, and symmetrical bodies because in the course of evolution people who noticed these signals and desired their possessors had more reproductive success. We are their descendants.
--Nancy Etcoff, Survival of the Prettiest, 1999

(Boldface added.)

baby with wide-open eyes
Are we born with a beauty detector? Three-month-old babies stare longer at faces that adults rate as beautiful than they do at faces adults deem unattractive.
  a pale 19th c. beauty and Farrah Fawcett
In 19th C. England, women patted their faces with chalk white powders. In the 1970s, Farrah Fawcett flaunted her California sunshine look, and tanning salons flourished.
man with huge sideburns
Facial hair: Some cultures shun it, others shape it in intricate ways.

Benetton ad with multi-ethnic models
The clothing company Benetton uses models with traits that people across cultures find appealing -- clear skin, alert eyes, and lustrous hair. Psychologist Nancy Etcoff notes of fashion ads, "Madison Avenue cleverly exploits universal preferences but it does not create them."

Did evolution shape your taste in a mate?

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