What is beauty? Round one

 

Welcome to round one of my inquiry!  Looking at how we define beauty has been an interesting inquiry in  that there is so many resources to review. Everyone has some experience with beauty and therefor an opinion of what beauty is. There appears to be some kind of emotional attachment even if you are trying to look at it more objectively.

Let’s start with an shared understanding that a  beautiful person is someone that holds some combination of both inner beauty and   outer beauty.  Inner beauty including but  not limited to  qualities such as personality, intelligence, grace, charisma, integrity and elegance. Outer beauty that includes physical attributes such as harmony, balance, signs of health, youth and fertility.

Somewhere along the line, inner beauty takes a back seat to outer beauty.  Some may argue that outer beauty is simply given more attention initially allowing another person get to know the inner beauty.  I would argue in the pursuit of beauty, we can get lost in exaggerated value of outer beauty. Others may also argue that there are political and economical  reasons for promoting a certain outer beauty with certain characteristics that open opportunities for a certain segment of the population.

Beauty is a perceptual experience.  This experience has both a subjective and objective element.  It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The beholder’s perception is influenced by their  own personal experience, the culture they live in and the media they are exposed to. There is studies that argue that attraction to certain qualities are tied  to the evolutionary drive to survive. Physical attributes of health  and fertility that would improve the odds of procreation. The farther removed people are from the basic need to survive the less meaningful this attributes are and the  more distorted the physical attractive attributes can become.

Yes cultural context makes a difference.  History has shown us that perception of beauty changes over time with changes in cultural values within one culture. It is also true that not everyone around the world shares the  same perception of beauty as Western cultures do. Some cultures value larger body types, other toned others slim. Some cultures value lighter skin others tanned others darker.  With the internet and social media more people are exposed to western cultural values and vs versa. Our cultural values will continue to change and what is considered beautiful will change with it. Will our perception of beauty opening  or narrowing with the exchange of ideas and values?. What is interesting is the value placed on outer beauty.

Gender and beauty? As a Canadian female teenager  I am not alone in experiencing  pressure to look a certain way , a certain standard of " beauty." Studies have shown  that more teenage girls are  experiencing anxiety and pressure to look beautiful. Girls tend to be more social than boys and with the use of  social media, sharing of selfies amplifies the drive to “look” beautiful. However studies also show that there is a sharp rise in teenage males experiencing pressure to look good, with a slim build, stylish hair and defined abs. The emphasis on outer beauty is not limited to females and has similar effect on males as it does females.  There is an increase in eating disorders, anxiety, depression and lowering of self esteem.

What role does social media play defining beauty?  Social media amplifies the current cultural value of outer beauty, allows for and encourages false images or self edited images. Social media also exposes us to alternate definition of beauty and other cultural values. Social media is this constant assessment and projection of oneself based on a shared images of  each other. Media has played a key role in the distortion of our perception of beauty, promotion of outer beauty as well as a distraction from experiencing beauty. The more time spent with social media and the less time spent interacting with people the greater influence social media has in defining beauty for you.  The less time you experience the combo of both inner beauty and outer beauty the greater dependency on outer beauty.  

Original Post

Hello Kaley,

Your inquiry question seems like a concept that never stays the same. I like how you split beauty into two parts and didn’t just leave it as beauty but inner and outer beauty, this really does help to clarify how they are different and beauty is made up of two key components rather then just one large whole. I agree with you though in that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, as different people tend to like different things, but in this case would beauty be considered to be the typical thing or attribute that is most favoured within the era/age/years, as through time there are different things that people are likened towards, an example of this might be fashion as fashion might also be considered an aspect of beauty, it’s changed a lot in the past 50 years, and what we view as beauty has as well. I am curious though as to why we think of beauty, of liking things, what is the reason behind this? is it all that the more beautiful we find someone the better we perceive them to be to procreate with or are there other reasons?, maybe you could look into this in your next round?

 

A website that you might find useful:

Thanks for your inquiry into my inquiry.  To answer your question about why is beauty tied to procreation as one reason for defining beauty. From a evolutionary perspective, scientific studies have shown certain factors come into play in the perception of  beauty. In my attempt to define beauty and address what is natural beauty and fabricated I wanted to offer an understanding of how we see beauty. If "beauty is in the eye of the beholder” What are we looking at? How does beauty become  an attraction.

Anjan Chatter ,   a cognitive neuroscientist  explored how the brain responds to characteristics associated with beauty.  When it comes to seeing beauty , experiments conducted by Sir Francis Galton  have shown that few basic things contribute to what a makes a face attractive. These include averaging, symmetry and the effects of hormones. Scientists have addressed the question of beauty using ideas from evolutionary psychology and tools of neuroscience. Although  it is widely accepted that beauty is subjective for the individual there are also factors that contribute to the survival of the group.

Average faces represent the central tendencies of a group. People with mixed features represent different populations, and are believed to have greater genetic diversity and adaptability to the environment. According to  his studies many people find mixed-race individuals attractive and inbred families less so.

Symmetry also plays a role in attractive faces. Galton found that symmetric faces are  more attractive than asymmetric ones. Developmental abnormalities are often associated with asymmetries. Makeup companies have made millions on this discovery by  developing makeup products that can create an appearance of symmetry.

Scientist also have explored the role of  hormones in perceived beauty. Estrogen and testosterone play important roles in shaping features that we find attractive.  From a procreation perspective estrogen produces features that are feminine and signal fertility and maturity. Testosterone produces features that  are more masculine signaling health and vitality.

Our visual brain,  processing faces, interacts with our pleasure centres to  underpin the experience of beauty. The studies suggest that our brain automatically responds to  beauty by linking vision with pleasure. The pleasure centre in the brain then produces dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter  referred to as “ motivational molecule” that signals pleasure and provides drive and focus. The release of dopamine reinforces that  beauty is good.

The evolutionary perspective offers some insight, but does not hold all the answers.  In round two I will look into other aspects. I have chosen not to include fashion because although related to beauty I think is another topic in itself.

How your brain decides what is beautiful TEDTALK

https://www.ted.com/talks/anjan_chatterjee_how_your_brain_decides_what_is_beautiful/transcript?language=en .

Hey Kaley,

I really like how open your topic is and how you are not only looking at different aspects of beauty, how they impact us, and how we impact them, but also asking questions. A part I particularly enjoyed was when you posed the question "Will our perception of beauty opening  or narrowing with the exchange of ideas and values?". That was wicked. I really hope you look into the historic trends on how cultural exchange and expansion has impacted our view of beauty. Additionally, I think it would be neat if you looked into general beauty trends over history and how they changed with large historic events (specifically, I suppose, the relation between women's fashion and their rights). 

Good luck with your future research, I really look forward to seeing what you discover
Joanna

Hey Kaley, 

This was super amazing to read. Your discussion placed me in a perspective of all different aspects of beauty, and really made me think deeply of different factors, such as cultural values, inner beauty, the impact of beauty and the impact on social media. The section of social media's influence on our beauty really drew my attention because truthfully, it has absorbed all of us and how we want to show ourselves to society. Keep doing what you're doing, it's awesome. Additionally, you could research more throughly the beauty standards of certain cultures and how they differ amongst others?

Here's a source you might find useful: 

https://www.totalbeauty.com/co...uty-standards-141201 

Good luck! 

Hi Kaley,

This was really interesting read. I think that this topic is talked about in many different lights, and I'm looking forward to seeing where you take this. I think if you tried expanding more on the emphasis of outer beauty, specifically why we may have placed value there as a society, it would add interesting information to your inquiry! Maybe, in addition to that, what the outer beauty looks like in different communities and societies. I'm excited to see where this takes you!

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