Anuraag Reddy

AIESEC India

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Facial Beauty is unique to Humans and supports the accelerated proliferation of Intellectual traits.

We have been evolving our cognitive ability many folds in the past 500,000 years. Such a leap in cognition is unique to our species and unprecedented in the history of earth itself.

Certain higher Primates and Humans have evolved a rather complex ability to recognize faces and highly correlate facial beauty to sexual attractiveness.

Since Facial Beauty neither predicts the sexual potency or the success of inherent traits, I believe it acts as a badge or indicator of something more hidden such as the cognitive capacity.

Advantageous yet hidden traits in males are more likely to be passed on to more aesthetically appealing females, and so better looking females are more likely to choose better genes.

This could be associated with a metaphor of a gift in a package where in every generation the better gift is being slowly sorted into a better a package. Until our standards of beauty are more or less sure that the best package has the best gift, although it may not necessarily be so. But the better package is appealing to most of us.

I am not sure to what extent this proposition is new, or if natural selection proposes this. I am assuming the role of beauty and its evolutionary significance goes beyond just appealing to the opposite sex and this could explains why beauty is such a sort after attribute.

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    Jun 9 2011: There is actually quite a bit of literature in neuroscience and in psychology that supports this concept..
    Some researchers believe that symmetry represents neurological health and it has scientific reasoning.

    All babies form in utero from the spinal cord out and complete and close at the front center. When the process is perfect it results in symetry. When it is not perfect it can result in conditions like cleft palate or others that present with lack of symmetry.

    The concept of the 'golden mean' is used in art and math but it relates to and helps us understand the general definitionof beauty which is common to all cultures- again having to do with propotion and symetry.

    So the theory goes that we intutively prefer symmetry because it indicates neurological health and thus the best mate. It is an over simplification but it is hardwired into us.

    The caveat has to remain though: sometimes there is nothing behind a pretty face.
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      Jun 10 2011: You are absolutely right, symmetry is a manifestation of both pre-birth and post-birth developmental aspects of an organism. Lack of symmetry would mean, that the organism was either affected by environmental or competitive stresses. The more an organism is stressed, the less it is adapted to its environment and so its traits may not survive in the long run. Thus its genetic fitness could be put to question, It is something that the opposite sex is predisposed to find attractive.

      On the other hand the golden mean, is more an aspect of social conditioning to see beauty in features which go beyond simple symmetry. (Assuming I am limited to a village in India, my perspective of the golden mean of beauty may be restricted to the mean of that population.)

      My proposition is that traits which can cause better thinking patterns in individuals are moving closer and closer to the golden mean after every successive generation. But not every individual with a pretty face may have already acquired the best cognitive traits, at least not just yet. :)
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    Jun 9 2011: Maybe I'm dense, but I fail to see the connection, to be honest. Can you please elaborate a bit more on how is it that by selecting the most attractive partner you are actually choosing the most intelligent one? From my understanding of natural selection, limited as it may be, by using beauty as criteria the only thing you can be sure to pass on to the next generation is beauty itself, nothing else.
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      Jun 10 2011: Lets believe humans are somewhere in between tournament species and pair bonding species.

      A1 is a male genetically predisposed to certain thinking patterns which may be competitively successful.

      Having proven his success, a male can choose from a female X1, Y1 and Z1. One who is considered beautiful either through his social conditioning, as suggested the golden mean.

      Soon, traits leading to successful thinking patterns are passed on to individuals closer to the golden mean and exhibit developmental symmetry.

      One of the second generation Males, say A2 exhibits both competitive success and is closer to the golden mean. Now he behaves more as a tournament species and proliferates his genes into as many females as possible X2, Y2 and Z2.

      This is how I propose traits causing more adaptable/successful thinking patterns are bridged closer to the accepted standards of beauty. And our recognition and emphasis on facial beauty may have vastly contributed to this acceleration in the evolution of cranial development and activity.
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    Jun 8 2011: So, do you think that animals choose mates on pheromones alone? That they have absolutely no discriminatory actions on the basis of aesthetics specific to that species? It's an intriguing idea, but I'm not sure it holds up considering the intricate mating rituals of plenty of animals.
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      Jun 10 2011: Other animals, I believe rely more on competitive success, physical symmetry and pheromones to induce mating. Their emphasis on facial beauty or their ability to recognize and correlate faces to beauty might be very limited. My proposition is that, this could be very unique to humans and early humanoids and thus contributing to our development from the apes.

      Mating rituals in my opinion still predict the success of behavior in these organisms and not necessarily their higher cognition.