Nancy Etcoff is part of a new vanguard of cognitive researchers asking: What makes us happy? Why do we like beautiful things? And how on earth did we evolve that way?

Why you should listen

In her book Survival of the Prettiest, Nancy Etcoff refutes the social origins of beauty, in favor of far more prosaic and evolutionary explanations. Looking for a partner with clear skin? You're actually checking for parasites. And let's just say there's a reason high heels are always in fashion.

Her recent research into the question of happiness exposes results that not only are surprising but reinforce things we should've known all along: like the fact that having flowers in the house really does make us happier. As the instructor of "The Science of Happiness" at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well Being at Massachusetts General Hospital, Nancy Etcoff is uniquely qualified to solve the mysteries of contentment.

What others say

“Skewering the popular wisdom that beauty is a social construct, this Harvard psychologist argues that we ogle such features because they radiate the health and fertility our species needs to survive.” — Time

Nancy Etcoff’s TED talk

Nancy Etcoff on the TED Blog

TED2008: Is beauty truth?

February 28, 2008

(Unedited running notes from the TED2008 conference in Monterey, California. Fourth session.) After music by Jill Sobule live from Aspen, and by Thomas Dolby‘s band in Monterey, the TED’s fourth session, hosted by Director of TED MediaJune Cohen, is on "What is beauty?", on the existence and the hidden meanings of beauty. Anchor speaker Nancy […]

Continue reading

Quotes from Nancy Etcoff

The formula for a happy marriage is five positive remarks, or interactions, for every one negative.
Nancy Etcoff
TED2004 • 1M views Jun 2009
Informative, Inspiring