It may be a relief for some of us to know that beauty is not judged by physical attributes alone. Researchers have discovered that when someone knows you, they may consider you beautiful even if, by objective standards, you’re not. And women choose husbands who look like their dads, especially if he was a nice guy. Shaoni Bhattacharya writes in New Scientist that women are “imprinted” by their fathers. Imprinting is a fast form of learning. Some animals, like ducklings, bond with the first object they see and will follow another type of animal around, thinking it’s “Mom.” An “unexpected” finding, says researcher Glenn Weisfeld, is that women who say their fathers are emotionally warm are much more likely to have a husband who looks like Dad.

In most studies of beauty, people are asked to compare photos of strangers. Researcher Kevin Kniffin says, “You can find study after study that focuses on which waist-to-hip ratios or particular facial features people find physically attractive, and these studies have captured popular attention.” But these don’t reveal the non-physical traits that may influence our concept of beauty.

Kniffin says, “The fitness value of potential social partners depends at least as much on non-physical traits?whether they are cooperative, dependable, brave, hardworking, intelligent and so on?as physical factors, such as smooth skin and symmetrical features. It follows that non-physical factors should be included in the subconscious assessment of beauty.”

He asked volunteers to rate the attractiveness of faces in their high school yearbooks, as well as people they worked with. Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, who also worked on the study, says, “In each case, non-physical traits known only to familiars, such as how much the person was liked, respected and contributed to shared goals, had a large effect on the perception of physical attractiveness that was invisible to the strangers.”

French artist Orlan is testing concepts of beauty by having plastic surgery done on herself. She says, “The whole idea of (my work) is to be against the idea of social pressure put on a woman’s body?I am against the ideas of normal beauty.” Her performance art consists of people watching her have the surgery. To see her latest incarnation, click here.

To find the right guy, do we have to get lucky? If so, Richard Wiseman can tell you how to do it!

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