By 105 Student
When you see an attractive person walking down the street you may turn your head to look at him or her. When you see everyone else, they may just be blurs as you pass by on the street. What is the reason you look at the attractive person? Why do humans find some people attractive and others not? The answer lies within the brain.
New research being done by psychologist Nancy Etcoff shows that when human beings see an attractive person the reward centers in the brain fire. Not only this, but humans can differentiate between levels of attractiveness by how heavily reward circuits fire in the brain when different pictures of attractive people are shown to them. Could the reward centers fire so much that one could become addicted to the beauty of one person…perhaps accounting for love? Yes, many other things factor into the development of a relationship, but stimulation of reward centers in the brain surely help the process. As Psychologist John R. Buri has shown, initial attraction to a person is just a powerful wave of neurotransmitters sent our way. This essentially creates a brain flooding of many different rewards, including Epinephrine, Dopamine, Phenyl ethylamine and Endorphins. Such powerful rewards for such surface level beauty can suggest many things, including an explanation for the commonly held belief that attractive people are more successful in life. This may possibly be because of the physiological response to seeing an attractive face, and with time and repeated exposure, an addiction, or obsession with a certain person. One would be more likely for instance to hire a person they found to be more attractive because they are rewarded chemically in the brain for being around that person.
Does this mean that universally brains can recognize certain features as attractive and that human brains will reward us for seeing beautiful people? Scientist Gad Saad, seems to suggest so in his article discussing the universal beauty metrics he has argued exist in society. He argues that although there are some different standards of beauty among different cultures, there are universal beauty metrics in our world that exist everywhere, including a universal preference for symmetric faces and clear skin.
This advantage plays to all sorts of parts of life. Human beings want to see attractive people in their daily lives, on their television screens, and on their magazine covers, in order to receive physiological stimulation from seeing physical beauty. The brain seems to suggest that beauty is important enough to receive a chemical stimulus to force us to surround ourselves with beautiful people. The chemicals released when one is happy are the same as when we see beauty or when we are addicted to drugs. This seems to point to an advantage that beautiful people have. Although many other factors contribute to success in society it seems like the saying it pays to beautiful may after all be very true.
Buri, J. R. (2010, February 16). Love bytes: Insights on our deepest desire, Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-bytes/201002/love-first-sight
Diller, V. & Marano, H. E. (1997, September 1). Physical attractiveness survey, Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199709/physical-attractiveness-survey
Aharon, I., Etcoff, N., Ariely, D., Chabris, C.F., O’Connor, E. & Breiter, H.C., (2001). Beautiful faces have variable reward value: fMRI and behavioral evidence, PubMed, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11709163
Saad, G. (2010, April 6). Beauty: Culture-specific or universally defined? Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/homo-consumericus/201004/beauty-culture-specific-or-universally-defined