How Good Looks Can Guarantee Lifetime of Opportunity
Beauty is far more than skin
deep, according to a leading scientist.
Good looks can smooth the way
to a better education and well-paid job as well as getting the best out of
Attractive men and women reap
benefits from their appearances all through their lives, says psychologist Dr
Bonny babies get preferential
treatment over plain ones while teachers assume their most attractive pupils
are the smartest. In later life, police officers, judges and juries are more
lenient towards pretty women and handsome men.
Dr Etcoff, who works at
Harvard Medical School in the U.S., in her book "Survival of the Fittest:
The Science of Beauty" argues that beautiful people are "sprinkled
with Stardust right from the beginning".
Her studies showed both women
and men tended to be more helpful towards a pretty woman asking for help than a
plainer one. In one experiment, researchers left a coin in full view in a
telephone kiosk and waited for passers by to make a call.
The callers were then
approached by one of two actresses and asked if they had found a coin left
behind. The better looking woman got her coin back 87 per cent of the time. But
the plainer actress was less successful, scoring a 64 per cent return rate.
The two women later stood at
the roadside by a car with a flat tyre. The prettier one was far more likely to
be helped first, the study found.
Dr Etcoff shows mothers are
more likely to talk and play with beautiful babies, while teachers expect good
looking pupils to be "smarter and more sociable".
Dr Etcoff said that while good
looks can make life easier, they do not guarantee happiness.
"Beautiful people are
perhaps a little bit happier," she said. "But not as much as we might
Although ideals vary between
generations and nationalities, Dr Etcoff believes the appreciation of human
beauty is "gene deep", rather than the result of cultural and social
pressures. Even three-month-old babies stare the longest at attractive people
when shown pictures, she said.
It suggests that we all come
into the world with these beauty detectors.
"The fascination with
beauty seems to ran very deep. Forty thousand years ago, people had red ochre
crayons and they were painting their faces. Today we have breast implants, hair
plugs and 24-hour mascara, but it's the same thing."
Her book also claims that
beauty ideals are not imposed on women by men. They are part of an evolutionary
process in which humans do whatever they can to advertise their fertility and
health to potential mates.
We use appearance to judge how
suitable a potential partner is, she said. Big eyes in women are linked to high
levels of the female hormone oestrogen, while a red flush on the face indicates
Research has shown that people
with symmetrical appearances are regarded as more attractive than those with
Symmetry has also been linked
to health and may be a sign of a long-living partner. There are even parallels
in the animal kingdom, according to Dr Etcoff. "In the animal world, they
do experiments where they lengthen the tail or make spots brighter and then
other animals are more attracted. For the rest, perhaps a nip and tuck."
One in three women under 40
have considered cosmetic surgery. Women from the South of England are more
likely to submit to the surgeons knife than those from elsewhere in the
country. Women in their twenties and early thirties are most likely to opt for
The survey of more than 1,200
women between 15 and 40 was carried out for the Lanark Centre, a London
cosmetic surgery clinic.
More than 50,000 patients had
cosmetic surgery in Britain in 1997. Ahmed Jawad, the centres chief surgeon,
said surgery had long been more popular in the U.S. but added: "Now
everyone wants to realise their full potential in terms of their features and
physique, so demand is rising."