Physical Attractiveness in Adaptationist Perspective

Physical attractiveness has long been researched from an evolutionary standpoint. Physical characteristics such as symmetry, good skin, clear eyes, and a healthy body shape, for example, appeal because they suggest health and fertility, which are necessary for successful reproduction.

Furthermore, facial expressions and body language can indicate social attributes such as intellect, trustworthiness, and dominance, which may be advantageous for survival and success in social contexts. As a result, the physical appeal developed as a mechanism to indicate underlying attributes helpful for survival.

Physical Attractiveness in Adaptationist Perspective

Physical attractiveness may result from a natural selection from an adaptationist perspective since people who exhibit particular physical qualities perceived as attractive by potential mates may have better reproductive success. According to evolutionary psychologists, physical attractiveness may indicate genetic fitness since particular physical features may communicate underlying health, fertility, and genetic quality.

For example, symmetry, frequently seen as a beautiful attribute, may indicate that an individual has fewer developmental disruptions and a well-functioning immune system. Moreover, physical attractiveness may also signal social status, as individuals with higher social status may have access to resources contributing to their physical appearance. This could explain why individuals may find certain physical traits attractive, such as a strong jawline or muscular build. These traits may indicate high social status and access to resources.

Assessment of Attractiveness as a Social Value Indicator

Attractiveness assessment may be considered a measure of social worth. Physical attractiveness generally correlates with favorable social outcomes, such as more excellent social standing, positive attention from others, and improved social and economic success prospects. Studies have demonstrated that physically beautiful persons are typically seen as more competent, affable, and trustworthy and may receive preferential treatment in various social circumstances, including employment choices, promotions, and encounters with authority figures.

Furthermore, research reveals that physical beauty may also impact our views of an individual's psychological attributes. For example, physically beautiful persons are frequently seen as more socially skillful, extraverted, and confident, whereas less attractive ones may be considered shy, introverted, and socially uncomfortable.

Perceptions of Personality Traits

Research reveals that physical beauty may also impact our impressions of an individual's personality attributes. For example, research done by Langlois in the United States indicated that physically beautiful persons were evaluated as more socially adept, extraverted, and confident than less handsome ones. This study evaluated how newborn facial beauty predicted adult judgments of personality qualities. Researchers displayed photographs of newborns to undergraduate students and asked them to judge their beauty. The same students were shown photographs of adults and asked to score their personality attributes years later. The study indicated that people who assessed the newborns as more handsome also regarded the adults as more extroverted, competent, and socially skillful.

Social Interactions

Physically beautiful people may gain more favorable attention from others, leading to more excellent social and economic success prospects. For example, Cash and Brown discovered that physically beautiful people were more likely to be contacted and helped by strangers when required to aid in a public setting. According to the researchers, physically beautiful people were more likely to be contacted and converse with strangers in a public setting, such as a shopping mall. Furthermore, attractive people were more likely to obtain assistance from strangers when they needed it, such as retrieving a lost item.

Hiring Decisions

According to studies, physically attractive job candidates are more likely to be hired and paid more than less attractive individuals. For example, Eagly investigated how physical beauty affected recruiting decisions in various employment environments in the United States. Researchers discovered that physically appealing individuals were more likely to be hired for traditionally "feminine" sales or customer service positions. On the other hand, physical beauty had little influence on recruiting decisions for typically "masculine" vocations like engineering or law enforcement.

Physical Characteristics in Mate Value

Physical traits can be an essential aspect of mate value since they can communicate possible mates' health, fertility, and genetic quality. According to research, people choose partners with physical characteristics related to these values, albeit the valued features differ among cultures and individuals. Here are some examples of physical traits that may be relevant in mate selection −

  • Facial Symmetry − Facial symmetry is the degree to which the two sides of a person's face match. As developmental abnormalities or genetic mutations can cause asymmetry in the face, it has been proposed that facial symmetry is a sign of genetic quality. As a result, those with more symmetrical looks may be seen as healthier, more beautiful, and hence preferable partners.

  • Waist-To-Hip Ratio (WHR) − The waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is the ratio of waist circumference to hip circumference. In females, a WHR of roughly 0.7 is typically seen as a measure of reproductive fitness since it indicates that a woman has a low quantity of abdominal fat and a large amount of hip fat, both related to higher fertility and a decreased risk of certain disorders.

  • Height − Height can be perceived as a sign of dominance, confidence, and beauty in potential mates. Furthermore, males who are taller than their female partners are viewed as more handsome and manly in heterosexual relationships, whereas women who are shorter than their male partners are perceived as more feminine and subservient.

  • Muscularity − In men, muscularity may be viewed as a sign of physical strength and general fitness and may be favored by potential mates. Muscularity may also be prized as a symbol of social dominance since males with more muscular bodies may be perceived as more capable of physical violence and defense.

Preferences for physical traits differ between cultures and individuals and are impacted by various variables such as media exposure and personal experiences.


Physical characteristics such as facial symmetry, waist-to-hip ratio, height, and muscularity can play a role in mate value, as they may signal genetic quality, health, fertility, and social dominance. However, it is essential to remember that these characteristics are just one aspect of mate selection. Other factors such as personality, social status, and shared interests may also be necessary. Additionally, preferences for physical characteristics may vary across individuals and cultures.

Updated on: 20-Apr-2023


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