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?
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.