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Nur die Schönsten überleben. Die Ästhetik des Menschen.

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  995 ratings  ·  120 reviews
In the latter part of the 20th century, the adage "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" has evolved far beyond its original intent as an admonition against false vanity to become a cultural manifesto used to explain phenomena as diverse as the art of Andy Warhol and the rise of a multi-billion-dollar cosmetics industry. But is there something more to human reaction to bea ...more
Published March 1st 2001 by Diederichs (first published January 1st 1999)
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I read this immediately after reading The Beauty Myth because it was billed as a rebuttal. The idea is that "beauty" is not a social construct after all, but an evolutionary fact.

Since it was billed as a rebuttal, I feel compelled to rate them against each other. Survival is definitely easier to get through. It is better written. It is full of fun facts and studies. I read both books on vacation and Survival definitely seemed more appropriate for the beach!

But I couldn't help but feel that it
Christian Clarke
Only read this book if you are "attractive," like me, or someone who reminds you of me. If you are not as "attractive" as me, this book will be for you like the 10th circle of Dante's Inferno. You will suddenly be aware of and feel cursed by your massive collection of bad genes. You will suddenly feel like extra cargo on the ocean liner that is the human race. You'll understand why for years nobody liked you very much, nobody picked you for a dance partner, or dropped a valentine in those paper ...more
Ultimately an unsatisfactory read, though the loads of research and information did prove quite educational, and I found myself much more informed about the evolution of the human body, cultural biases about looks, etc. The author attempts to explain why "pretty" is "pretty," but, in my opinion, with little success. Her ultimate conclusions leave us to believe that by these supposedly evolutionary superior standards, large breasted caucasian women are the most beautiful human beings alive, scien ...more
Jul 16, 2014 Kaethe marked it as stricken  ·  review of another edition
Argues for an evolutionary basis for the notion of "beauty" but then tries to argue than the current cultural ideal is somehow natural. Yeah, throughout humanity, blonde, young, skinny-waisted, big-boobed Barbie looks have been the epitome of health and fecundity? Give me a break.

The idea that evolution has encouraged us to seek out signals of health in partners? Sure. The idea that fair skin = health? Not buying it.
Miss Michael
Nov 16, 2008 Miss Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Miss Michael by: Matt
It's rare that I read non-fiction, I'm generally more into escaping than educating myself. However, I did enjoy this book. I found it very readable for non-fiction. Etcoff takes the stance that beauty is not necessarily in the eye of the beholder, that there are certain commonalities in what is considered to be beautiful across all cultures, and that we are hardwired to enjoy looking at beautiful things. She concludes, however, by pointing out that we don't have to heed our instincts, we can gaz ...more
Apr 24, 2008 Anne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who wishes more books combined sociology, physiology, and biochemistry in one book!
Shelves: anthropogenetic
Before you laugh and surmise to yourself, "that's kind of a silly book to read," it is written by a Harvard neuroscientist, Dr. Nancy Etcoff. In this book, she explains the very processes of attraction, why we are attracted to certain people, certain traits, certain characteristics, and how we are biologically hardwired to have the exact desires that we do. If you enjoy the scientific processes behind human motivations. I personally cannot stand books that purport to help you "find yourself" by ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
I have mixed feelings on this book. It was very interesting and while I believe quite a lot of it is true, I just have always felt generalizations based on race, gender, and yes even 'our primitive instincts' just cannot be called FACT. Maybe the majority is inclined to choose partners based on such things as, for men, youthful women etc.... but thank god for the small percentage that does not. If it were true well are all inclined to crave such things as stated in the book, then wouldn't we all ...more
Nobody is immune to beauty, and it seems that what is beautiful is wired in our brains. It’s all in the proportions and angles between the parts of the face and then different parts of the body, for both women and men. It seems to be pretty much universal. There are no cultural discrepancies in what we like and define as beautiful. All around the globe we seem to pick out the same photographs as more pleasing than others. The only curious difference may be the nose. It is mentioned that Polynesi ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
I would have preferred if this book had touched more on the sociological aspects of beauty. Exploring things like how beautiful people interact in social situations, if they get better treatment maybe providing some statistical evidence or studies for this (of which I know there are many studies). Also perhaps if she could have explored the psychological aspects of when beauty meets ego, perhaps expounding more on characters in history like Cleopatra, who had an absolute plethora of beautifying ...more
G (galen)
(Wasn't sure whether to give it two or three stars, could have gone either way...)

"Beauty is howlingly unfair" (from the conclusion)

I like the science-heavy segments, where the author explored possible evolutionary reasons for appearance/preference, especially when discussion mating practices amongst the animal world.

The parts that were my least favorite were where she used study after study to show what humans find "attractive" in a mate: I am a bit of an outlier and I prefer outliers, so
Shrug. From a non-fiction book, I need one of two things: excellent scholarship or excellent writing. I felt like this book was mediocre on both accounts - not terrible, but not outstanding either. I should say that, on that account, out of boredom I didn't actually finish the book, but my general ideological beefs with it concerned a Euro/Caucasian-centric viewpoint, with a seeming lack of terrible interest in African, or even African-American, standards of beauty. But, since I didn't read the ...more
This book was interesting, but there were quite a lot of major points that I disagreed with. Being a psychology major, I am not one to discount the role that society plays in aesthetic trends, but since this book was largely biology-based, there were many cases in which I could not entirely agree with what I was reading. Do I agree that what we find beautiful is an evolutionary development? Certainly. Do I agree that only white, blonde haired, blue eyed, tiny waisted, big boobed, yet vaguely inf ...more
Jen Henderson
Etcoff presents a simple yet compelling thesis: appreciating beauty is not learned, but rather is a biological adaptation. It debunks the myth that beauty is a learned social construct and presents the idea that beauty is part of our biology. "To tell people not to take pleasure in beauty is like telling them to stop enjoying food or sex or novelty or love.” The book is broken down into eight chapters ranging in topics from the history of fashion and clothing to examining the evolutionary prefer ...more
Adam Wiggins
A thoughtful and rigorous investigation into the primal and enigmatic question of human beauty.

Much of the content covered things I had read elsewhere: for example, that opinions on what makes a beautiful face or body are quite constant across all humans, including across cultures; that beautiful faces and bodies are the ones which have the most regular (and hence "average") and symmetrical features; that beauty in woman is primarily a display of youthful fertility, and in men a display of stren
Etcoff argues that beauty is not a manufactured cultural construct. That certain commonalities across all cultures expose an evolutionary rationale behind our aesthetic reactions. We are genetically hardwired to find pleasure in looking at physical beauty.

Beauty is stated to be a biological adaption that arose during the hunter-gatherer period humanity spent 99% of its history in, and one that still influences a great deal of our social interactions today. Sexual preference is guided by ancient
Kayla Ford
At face value, this is a pretty decent book of statistics. A well written representation of how the world appears to be at the surface. But beyond that, it's leaps in logic are insulting, degrading, racist and even inherently sexist. It doesn't bother to delve deeper into any finding, simply taking every numerical representation of how the world currently works at face value and ignoring the root cause of those numbers. In other words, it's not a well thought out piece of work. It tries, but it ...more
What really can you write about the science of beauty other than something about symmetry? Well, apparently hundreds of pages' worth. This book, published in 1999, doesn't contain a lot that I didn't already know about. It was still interesting sometimes, but it could also be grating. Early on in the book the author vaguely takes a jab at Naomi Wolf and vaguely hints that she supports Camille Paglia, which doesn't sit well to me because Camille Paglia is a known misogynist and I'm pretty much Te ...more
Billie Pritchett
Nancy Etcoff's Survival of the Prettiest argues that beauty is not a social construct but that human beings are hardwired to recognize people and things as beautiful. You could imagine it like this. There's a definite set of beauty principles we all carry around in our noggins that interact with the environment in all sorts of ways, and these principles allow for varying ranges as to what would appear to be beautiful to us. We might not be able to state in words why it is we find some people and ...more
This book made me put way too much thought into what I think is hot and what isn't. Takes the magic out of the process.
Samantha Vinci
Interesting, but it seemed more like a collection of facts than a cohesive argument.
Aabha sharma
Okay, just to give you a clearer picture of where I'm coming from I love(L O V E) "the beauty myth" and I know it's an old book but it's so damn good! So when I read that being "pretty" is all that matters to us humans I scoff. I scoff loud. High heels, waist lines, plucked brows, blonde hair, blue eyes and plastic surgery all govern human attraction because gosh, we're "biologically wired" to be helpless against the charms of a good lookin gal( why is it always a gal?). The narrow definition of ...more
Survival of the Prettiest is an easy reading book, but providing revealing insights into our view of beauty and ourselves. The theme of the book is that beauty is not just a social construct. It is an instinct built into us over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. In essence, the quest for beauty is the quest for a healthy, fertile mate, benefiting those that are beautiful with more sexual partners and greater opportunities. (There is a cultural component of beauty touching on status an ...more
Fascinating read! Etcoff meticulously analyzes nearly every facet you could think of related to beauty. And while she makes men sound like neanderthals who are slaves to their desires, Etcoff's book is fascinating. There are too many details to go into, but the long and short of it is attractiveness all boils down to factors that attract a mate and produce offspring. A few points I found most interesting:

Features that signify ancestry evolved partly due to climatic conditions. Noses in climates
The book presents evidence of the psychology and biology and history behind beauty and attraction. In a nutshell "Every civilization reveres [beauty:], pursues it and at enormous costs, and endures the tragic and comic consequences of this pursuit." It was interesting to discover that our culture's obsession with beauty is not a modern marvel nor can it be blamed on the media. The book seemed a little unfocused towards the end when it dabbled in fashion and smell - although those tidbits were in ...more
A mind expanding read. Especially for women who find themselves ever bitter, hurt, angry, unhappy, about the cultural obsession with beauty, or who struggle to deal with their own desires to want to be beautiful. Etcoff theorizes with the use of modern science, experiments, studies and psychology that the desire to be beautiful, and the obsession with beauty, has been with us since the dawn of humankind. The good thing is, we now have the knowledge to understand these desires, and use our unders ...more
I live in Los Angeles (North Hollywood, to be exact). I live in the land of exalted and extreme measure for beauty. Quite simply, expectations are higher here on the physical scale. One may wonder whether striving for beauty perfection is a cognitive/scientific response or one that is a result of environmental factors. That is where Nancy Etcoff’s “Survival of the Prettiest” steps in.

A book’s introduction is a heavy first impression. It is like the front door to a blind date. Luckily, I opened t
I found the statistics in this really fascinating. The book was both painful and liberating. They did tests on babies that reveal that babies stare longer at faces which adults have described as beautiful than they do at faces adults described as average or homely. Likewise, when surveying primitive cultures unexposed to our media and western culture, they found that there were certain faces (faces selected from a variety of races) that they found beautiful, and their choices overlapped quite a ...more
Required reading! Essentially, it contests the politically correct notion that our perceptions of beauty are constructed entirely by our culture and media. <--- THIS, though it was developed by an important feminist, is an idea I have never fully bought. This book is arguing what I've long thought privately, and not said aloud so as not to incite my female friends. While I'm a feminist and obviously think there's irresponsible marketing out there, I've never really believed myself to be so mi ...more
I really enjoyed this book! It was well-written; the author did a wonderful job of blending quotes, facts, humor, study results, anecdotes, and even some pop-culture. I had been a little afraid that it would be some feminist treatise about how bad the media is and how nobody should care what beauty is ... but it wasn't like that at all! It's more about what beauty has been/meant throughout time ... and how evolution and/or survival of the fittest effects what we consider to be beautiful today, a ...more
Interesting read as to what constitutes beauty in our culture and around the world. What is interesting is how culture plays a role in beauty and in how we decorate ourselves. There are some basics in all cultures, though. Men like younger women, probably because of the sexual idea of passing on the genes. Good-looking men are tall, strong jaw and chin, broad forehead. Good-looking women have tiny waists, red lips and blushing cheeks, broad enough hips to carry children. Interesting that we do f ...more
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Ninjas Be Reading: "Survival of the Prettiest" reading assignments 3 25 Sep 03, 2012 08:59PM  
  • Hope in a Jar: The Making of America's Beauty Culture
  • Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?: Bodies, Behavior, and Brains--the Science Behind Sex, Love, and Attraction
  • Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women
  • Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray
  • Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes
  • The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating
  • The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution
  • The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls
  • Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species
  • Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined
  • Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body
  • Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation
  • The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter
  • The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body
  • Sex, Time, and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution
  • The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People
  • Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel
  • Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice
Nancy Etcoff serves as Practicing Psychologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry. At the Massachusetts General Hospital, Ms. Etcoff served as Director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well Being. She has conducted research on the perception of beauty, emotion, well-being and the brain for more than 20 years, culminating in numerous awards and research papers in profess ...more
More about Nancy L. Etcoff...
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“Beauty ensnares hearts, captures minds, and stirs up emotional wildfires.” 5 likes
“I don't feel less because I'm in the presence of a beautiful person. I dont go, oh, I'll never be that beautiful! What a ridiculous attitude to take! ....When men look at sports, when they look at football, they don't go, oh, I'll never be that fast!, I'll never be that strong!' Camille Paglia” 3 likes
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