Empirical Survey of Beauty Standards

This research topic submitted by Sanders, Corey (and) Stemmermann, Mele (Sanderc2@miamioh.edu, Stemmem@...) on 2/26/98.


Assuming that beauty is biologically determined and beauty rules are universal: the effect of secondary beauty attributes such as shorter hair length and an increased amount of body hair in women should not affect the evaluation of that women's beauty. In practicality, it would seem that these traits do have a large effect on how men rate women. What about these traits make a woman that is beautiful, according to biological evidence, become less attractive or even somewhat unattractive?


At this time in our scientific development beauty has been staked out fairly well. Scientists, such as New Mexico State University's Randy Thornhill, have shown ever increasing evidence that beauty is a biologically influenced phenomenon. But wait, notice the influenced part. Nowhere, in all the research that we found on this subject, has any researcher suggested that the biological factors of beauty are by themselves the determining factor in mate selection. Many people, including Helen Fisher, author of, "Anatomy of Love," have stated that, "[humans] are not packets of DNA (Newsweek, 1996)." Humans are also a moral animal. Evidence has shown that humans are biologically biased, but we are also culturally and morally biased. In discussing this issue in conjunction with biological aspects of beauty, Thornhill himself says that, "I don't know any scientist who seriously thinks you can look to nature for moral guidance (Newsweek, 1996)."


A survey is going to be conducted that poses questions about characteristics in women that are traditionally things that have not been aceptable as aspects of beauty. Each of the questions will be raised in relation to a set of test cases. These test cases will contain pictures of women that can be ascribed to the quantifiable standard for biological beauty but have on subtle secondary beauty trait that has been altered. These traits will be engineered from general knowledge about the tendancy of beauty opinions between the conservative or liberal viewpoints. For each case, the subject should be able to give a brief description of what is attractive or unattractive about the woman depicted in the image(s). At the end of the study, the subjects will be asked to place themselves in a particular political context. Is the person conservative? Are they feminist? Neither?
The subjects should include individuals not just from Western campus but also persons from main campus. The Western surveys will be administered in lecture, whereas the main campus students will be surveyed either at the bus stop or inside of the Shriver Center. The total amount of survey data gathered should be at least 25 students from each section of campus and both genders are welcome as subjects.


Do the subjects in the survey devalue the women's beauty rating due to the presence (or non-presence) of subcultural markers (short hair, non-shaved, no make-up)? The results are expected to show a correlation between social views and beauty standards. Feminist's will be more prone to value traits that strive toward an equality between men and women, conservatives will show a greater tendancy toward the blonde blue-eyed historic beauty type. Those who do not label themselves on either side of the line are expected to be able to quantify the reasons for their choices and from that some inference will be made as to what orientation they could be. This would serve as evidence that beauty standards are not inherent at all--although they may slightly influence, they are not the be-all and end-all of standards.


Grammer, Karl. "The Beauty of Boundaries." Mindship. http://evolution.humb.univie.ac.at/institutes/urbanethology/beauty/beauty.html 2-25-98

Cowley, Geoffrey. "The Biology of Beauty." Newsweek. June 3, 1996, pp. 60-69

Jackson, Linda. Pyshical Appearence and Gender: Sociobiologial and Sociocultural Perspective.
SUNY Press, 1992.

For Further Info on this Topic, Check out this WWW Site: www-psych.nmsu.edu/~vic/faceprints/ (and) www.evolution.humb.univie.ac.at/.Next Article
Previous Article
Return to the Topic Menu

Here is a list of responses that have been posted to this Study...

Important: Press the Browser Reload button to view the latest contribution.

Respond to this Proposal!

IMPORTANT: For each Research Response, make sure the title of the response is different than previous titles shown above!

Response Title:

Optional: For Further Info on this Topic, Check out this WWW Site:
Response Text:

Article complete. Click HERE to return to the Research Menu.