In the latter part of the 20th century, the adage "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" has evolved far beyond its original intent as an admonition against false vanity to become a cultural manifesto used to explain phenomena as diverse as the art of Andy Warhol and the rise of a multi-billion-dollar cosmetics industry. But is there something more to human reaction to beauty than a conditioned response to social cues? Yes, says Harvard Medical School psychologist Nancy Etcoff. Survival of the Prettiest argues persuasively that looking good has survival value, and that sensitivity to beauty is a biological adaptation governed by brain circuits shaped by natural selection.
Etcoff synthesizes a fascinating array of scientific research and cultural analysis in support of her thesis. Psychologists find that babies stare significantly longer at the faces adults find appealing, while the mothers of "attractive" babies display more intense bonding behaviors. The symmetrical face of average proportions may have become the optimal design because of evolutionary pressures operating against population extremes. Gentlemen may prefer blondes not so much for their hair color as for the fairness of their skin--which makes it easier to detect the flush of sexual excitement. And high heels accentuate a woman's breasts and buttocks, signaling fertility. Is beauty programmed into our brain circuits as a proxy for health and youth? In marked contrast to other writers like Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth), Etcoff argues that it is, noting, "Rather than denigrate one source of women's power, it would seem far more useful for feminists to attempt to elevate all sources of women's power." --Patrizia DiLucchio --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In riveting style, Etcoff, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School, demolishes the belief that beauty is a cultural construct, arguing instead "that beauty is a universal part of human experience, and that it provokes pleasure, rivets attention, and impels actions that help ensure the survival of our genes." By drawing widely from anthropological, psychological, biological and archeological literature, Etcoff discerns surprising similarities in the ways humans have perceived and responded to beauty across diverse cultures throughout the millennia. For example, cross-cultural research comparing two isolated Indian tribes in Venezuela and Paraguay to people in three Western cultures demonstrated a remarkable similarity in what is considered beautiful. And evidence that red pigments were used as lipstick as long ago as 5000 B.C. suggests that media images are not the sole reason that "in the United States more money is spent on beauty than on education or social services." The most important message in this book is that we cannot ignore our evolutionary past when attempting to understand our current behavior, even as we should recognize that we need not be slaves to our genes. Topics as wide-ranging as penis- or breast-enlargement surgery and the basics of haute couture are treated with wit and insight. Etcoff's arguments are certain to initiate a great deal of discussion. Photos and illustrations. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Surprisingly engaging. Used this for a class and really made me think long and hard outside of the classroom.Published 5 days ago by Arith Turner
Informative book of depth and dimension. Good price. Mint condition.Published 18 days ago by Ferne D. Spence
This is very much a biological determinist view of sexual attractiveness. More and more, we are seeing that attractiveness is much more cultural, than most people think. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Sean D
This book came out in the year 2000 and is peppered with references to 90s models. Ultimately, it became quite repetitive to me - we get it, people are geared toward rewarding... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Lalelilolu
Nancy Etcoff's "Survival of the Prettiest" argues that beauty is not a social construct but that human beings are hardwired to recognize people and things as beautiful. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Billie Pritchett
Although this movie has a solid plot and narrative rhythm, it is the line up of Hollywood megastars that carry its weight. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Shai
Contrary to what many people think there are certain features of the human body and face that have always been considered attractive, in all cultures. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Neuron
Love this! Informative and so very interesting. I highly recommend this book!Published 11 months ago by Neva
This book was well written for anyone who has any interest in the topic. As a non-expert, I was able to understand Etcoff's explanations.Published 17 months ago by kate