Why Beauty Matters

What is considered beautiful depends on the zeitgeist of the respective culture. But different ideals of beauty also develop within a culture – in the income groups and individual scenes or subcultures. Attractive people are often the focus of attention. But scientists warn that equating beauty with performance is just as discriminatory as racism.

Beauty in the animal kingdom and in humans

Charles Darwin was the first researcher to talk about the role of beauty in the development of living beings. In the animal world he had observed that males are mostly the more beautiful sex. They have to draw attention to themselves by their chic plumage, courtship dances, tubes, horns and other behaviour. The females, on the other hand, often look simple, but take care of their offspring.

A vivid example of this is the peacock: the male impresses with his large but impractical wheel, while the female looks rather inconspicuous. According to Darwin, this could only have been the result of enormous selection pressure. He concluded that male peacocks must be beautiful. Otherwise the hens do not choose them as sexual partners, and there is no reproduction. For Darwin, the theory of beauty was a theory of female choice and female power.

In humans, on the other hand, the woman seems to be a unlucky bird of evolution, beaten with a double burden. She is the one who becomes pregnant and usually takes care of the children. Nevertheless, she should also be the one who has to make herself beautiful for her partner. But is that true at all? Is the woman the peacock and thus the more beautiful sex?

The English psychologist Susie Orbach is convinced: “Every 15 minutes a woman thinks about her body. It’s like a ticket into our modern world to worry about your body, to construct it so that it has a certain look,” she says.

Psychologist and beauty researcher Nora Ruck takes a different view. In Greek antiquity, the ideal image of beauty was embodied by the man,” she says. Even later, men dressed up just like women. Ruck stresses that it was only in modernity, with the development of the division of labour, that this changed. Men earn the money, women represent the house. This also includes looking pretty.

That a beautiful person is also a healthy person is a more recent theory by evolutionary biologists; Darwin only saw a loose connection between beauty and health. Accordingly, beauty features such as symmetry, averageness, healthy hair or beautiful skin should indicate physical fitness and a fit partner should guarantee healthy offspring. A controversial theory, several studies have not confirmed it.

People learn what is “beautiful

How do people know what’s beautiful? Is there such a thing as a sense of beauty? That’s what researchers asked themselves and did a test with babies, because they are considered unbiased. They showed the babies photos of people who are considered attractive and less attractive. It turned out that the babies looked at those photos of people that were also considered more attractive by adults for significantly longer.

So is a person already born with what he finds beautiful? It’s not that easy to deduce, says psychologist Ruck. She explains the human sense of beauty differently: “The knowledge about what is beautiful, one learns in the same way as one learns all other norms. Everyone observes the people around them, is criticized or praised for certain behaviors, and gradually learns what is “beautiful. People learn from each other and socialize with each other. The psychologist emphasizes that peers are particularly important.

In addition, media play an important role with the beauty dictation. After reading women’s magazines, many women felt uncomfortable with their bodies, reports attractiveness researcher Ruck. And men, who are often confronted with unrealistic images of women, have higher expectations of the beauty of women.

In the media there is always a call to work on oneself.

Advertisements and television programmes such as slimming and model shows call more or less covertly for bodywork. For example, a model show is usually won by the girl who has worked most and hardest on herself and developed the most – and not by the girl who is thought to be the most beautiful.

Being beautiful puts pressure on our society. “Physical beauty has a lot to do with seeing oneself through the eyes of others,” explains beauty researcher Ruck. “We forgot to see ourselves from the inside and concentrate too much on what image we present to the outside,” she says. But this is not a phenomenon of our time, as the history of beauty shows.