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 Psychological & Emotional Health

The Psychology of Beauty
Dr Savita Date Menon
Beauty is not in the face. Beauty is alight in the heart.”                    - Kahlil Gibran
 
The paragon of beauty in ancient Greece, Helen of Troy, was the instigator of the Trojan War. We have our own example in Rani Padmavati.

So what was so intoxicating about their beauty that made people wage war and sacrifice innumerable lives? Beauty obviously went beyond the skin to impact the mind of the person who possessed it. And also the one who desired to possess it.

The psychology of beauty is complex. It does lie in the eyes of the beholder. Beauty is absorbed by the eyes and other senses and perceived as appealing if found to be compatible with personal preferences. And the beholder’s definition of beauty changes with geography, history, culture, race and more.

Symmetry and proportion are attractive to the human eye
Plato spoke about “Golden proportions“ and today it is scientifically proven that similarity between the left and the right side of the face is important. Babies spend more time staring at pictures of symmetric individuals. Female swallows prefer males with longer and more symmetric tails, while female zebra finches mate with males with symmetrically coloured leg bands. Humans, animals and even birds both seem to select symmetry. A university of Louisville study surveyed people from 13 different countries including Asians, Latinos, and Americans. All showed a preference for symmetry in rating attractiveness.

Beauty is a package deal
To consider something beautiful, we usually take a broad holistic view and not just the sum total of its parts. A beautiful face, accompanied by an attractive structure/body is what a beauty pageant would look for. In addition, personality would add a certain presence. Hair, sense of dressing and personal hygiene are also essential ingredients in holistic good looks. This explains why makeover shows on TV are so successful. An ugly duckling (with potential, don’t forget) is put through some weight loss, grooming, right dressing and make up lessons, instructed on walking and presence and Viola! We have a swan, beautiful and self-confident.

Beauty, culture and changing times
Fair is probably the most used description in our matrimonial columns. India being a country of less fair and more dark skin,the beneficiary can only be Fair and Lovely and the likes. While the western society finds a tanned, dark skin attractive, Eastern societies swear by white skin and driving both is an element of novelty.

Chinese men used to prefer women with small feet while ankles were the rage in Shakespearean England. Caucasian, modern women are judged on the basis of their breasts, bottom and lips; Victorian woman was required to have elegance, grace, a smooth neck and a tiny waist. Doesn’t matter if the Chinese woman could barely walk and the Victorian woman could just about breathe. In Roman times, the well endowed look was considered desirable.

In current times, universal to all societies is size 0. This unnaturally thin look has women of all ages and cultures terming anorexic and/or bulimic. A surgeon’s knife or a diet of only orange juice, are also considered means of hitting Size 0.

When it comes to men, studies indicate that women prefer dominant looking men during the first follicular stage in their reproductive cycle. But, prefer men with softer, more feminine features when they are in their menstrual and ovulation stages. While the raw appeal is an advantage to begin with, the softer look and nature seems more stable for keeps.

Another feature of male attractiveness that is oft discussed though in jest is size. The size of the wallet, that is! The bigger the wallet, the more successful the man, the more attractive he appears. Even if he reduces you to tears, at least it will be on holiday, in the South of France.
 
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