Ashley's Reviews > Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty

Survival of the Prettiest by Nancy L. Etcoff
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's review
Jan 03, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, 2011-books, social-issues
Read from December 24, 2010 to January 03, 2011

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 where the air is cold or dry and needed to be warmed and moistened before reaching the lungs grow long and narrow. In humid environments, a short wide nose is more efficient. Eyes need extra protection in cold, sunny climates where glare reflects off of snow. Narrow eyes with an extra padding of fat surrounding them act like built in sun shades. Eye color, however, has no biological function and likely represents mating preferences.

One reason why people from other races "all look alike" when we encounter for them the first time - not because they look different, but because they all look different in the same way. It takes the eyes and mind a few minutes to re-calibrate and begin picking out the usual distinctions that make all faces different.

- Women represent 50% of the world's population, they perform nearly 2/3 of all working hours, receive only 1/10 the world income, and own less than 1% of world property.
- 70% of cosmetic surgery patients earn less than $50k a year and 30% earn below $25k. (Although this math seems a little suspect to me...)
- Severe balding at the vertex (top of the head) in men is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
- In Presidential elections since 1776, only James Madison and Benjamin Harrison have been below average height. The easiest way to predict an election is to bet on the taller man; in this century you would have a perfect record save for 1968 when Richard Nixon beat George McGovern.
- In one study of married couples less than 1% (0.3%) of women were taller than their husbands, a percentage less than would have been expected by chance.

For all the power, energy, and animosity aimed at beauty, love it or hate it, embrace it or denounce it, it's one of the ways life perpetuates itself.

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