Why attractiveness is subjective

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Are beauty standards universal?

As the internet became popular and as the world quickly turned into a small village some universal beauty standards started to emerge. No matter where you live i am pretty sure that you have heard of some famous celebrities who live in different countries.

The fact that those celebrities have fans almost everywhere in the world have made so many people think that beauty standards are now universal but that's not true.

I am pretty sure you knew of a friend who was obsessed with some celebrities then married a person who isn't even remotely close in looks to those celebrities. I am not talking about people who didn't have much of a choice because of limited options but i am talking about the person who truly fell in love with someone who doesn't look like any of the celebrities they liked.

Let me first make it clear that both the internet and globalization have certainly advertised certain beauty standards and even made them the norm. This however doesn't cancel the fact that each person still sees physical beauty from his own unique angle. See also where do beauty standards come from

Why attractiveness is subjective

There are so many factors that come into pay that shapes the person's beliefs, wants and needs. Those factors can easily define the person's beauty standards and let them have their own taste. Here are some of those factors:

  • 1) The person's past experiences: Past experiences with certain people can either make the ones who resemble them very attractive or very undesirable. Some people seek the ones who resemble the people who rejected them to finish the past unfinished business while others do the opposite to avoid further rejection. See How your past determines your future choices.
  • 2) The individual's beliefs about certain facial features: In my article why do people like certain facial features i said that our beliefs about certain facial features can either make them attractive or repulsive to us. If for example someone doesn't want a dominant partner and in the same time they believed that sharp facial features are associated with dominance then they might find people with such features less attractive
  • 3) Resemblance to parents or primary caregivers: In my book How to make someone fall in love with you i said that the relationship with the opposite-sexed parent or caregiver can greatly affect a person's beauty standards. A woman who truly admires her dad might find the men who resembles him very attractive
  • 4) The person's unconscious goals: All humans have certain unconscious goals that control most of their behaviour and actions. If an individual had the goal of attracting attention then they will find attraction grabbers more attractive. That person might prefer blondes over other attractive people for example.See Why many men find blondes attractive
  • 5) The person's personal flaws: In my book The psychology of physical attraction i said that our flaws and perceived weaknesses can force us to find some people attractive. A person who lacks confidence might get attracted to the one who looks like they are confident

Attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder

I only mentioned 5 factors but in reality there might be tens or even hundreds of factors that determine a person's overall attractiveness preferences.

Yes there are universal beauty standards but each person still adds their own final touches to the equation and this is why physical attractiveness is a truly subjective thing.

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