College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

The evolution of human physicalattractiveness

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-21-2005

Keywords

beauty, sexual selection, evolutionary psychology, evolutionary anthropology, costly signaling

Publication Title

Annual Review of Anthropology

ISSN

0084-6570

Volume

34

Abstract

Everywhere the issue has been examined, people make discriminations about others’ physical attractiveness. Can human standards of physical attractiveness be understood through the lens of evolutionary biology? In the past decade, this question has guided much theoretical and empirical work. In this paper, we (a) outline the basic adaptationist approach that has guided the bulk of this work, (b) describe evolutionary models of signaling that have been applied to understand human physical attractiveness, and (c) discuss and evaluate specific lines of empirical research attempting to address the selective history of human standards of physical attractiveness. We also discuss ways evolutionary scientists have attempted to understand variability in standards of attractiveness across cultures as well as the ways current literature speaks to body modification in modern Western cultures. Though much work has been done, many fundamental questions remain unanswered.

DOI

10.1146/annurev.anthro.33.070203.143733

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