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Attractiveness ( Latin more attractive, 'to draw in, to attract' ) is attraction. In relation to people, it can be based on external properties ( beauty ) as well as on essential properties ( character , spirit , charisma , social position ) or on material things. It is assessed differently from person to person and essentially depends on the expectations of the viewer. As a subjective value, it is subject to social and societal change.

Stereotypes of attractiveness

Studies show that people consider attractive people to be more successful and competent (see also the halo effect ) - but not as more upright or more concerned about other people. Other research shows that even infants pay more attention to attractive faces, and that adults implicitly associate attractive faces with positive traits.

Who is attractive

Attractive faces are often created on the computer in experiments . To do this, a series of photographs of real people is morphed together to form an average face. Such average faces are judged to be attractive by many viewers. In the opinion of some authors, the attractiveness of the average face could be more due to the side effect that the morphing makes their skin look particularly flawless, smooth, fine and thus at reproductive age than to the actual average character of the faces.

The perceived attractiveness can be increased by artificially created symmetry between the halves of the face. Infants also pay more attention to these artificially created faces. In addition, faces with more feminine features seem to be perceived as more attractive, for example if they have higher cheekbones. Daily experience shows that smiling people are spontaneously rated as more attractive than others.

In the animal kingdom there is evidence that external features and their symmetry are decisive for sexual attractiveness, for example the peacock's wheel , the fluffing or whistling of birds or, among higher mammals, the stature of the oldest gorilla or the antlers of male deer .

In a 2011 study, researchers investigated the relationship between the (facial) attractiveness of infants (aged 24 months and under) and the same young adults (16-18 years of age) by assessing attractiveness using photos. In fact, no correlation was found between attractiveness in infancy and adulthood (no correlation ): For example, some pretty babies became unattractive adults, while some unattractive babies also remained unattractive. This was true of men and women alike. However, at the age of five or ten years, the future attractiveness can already be partially predicted (low correlation).

Hormonal influences

Studies show that heterosexual women's judgment is influenced by their cycle. If they are near ovulation, they prefer more masculine features (e.g. pronounced chin). The further away from ovulation, the more attractive they judge more feminine traits. One possible explanation is evolutionary psychology : Attractive faces should reflect health , strength and reproductive fitness .

Genetic matching also plays a role in the subjectively perceived attractiveness of a potential partner .


A special influence is the already existing feelings towards a person: People you love are more attractive.


Also playing social comparison an important role. People judge their own attractiveness and that of others according to the impressions they have of their social environment. It has been shown that men judge their wives as less attractive if they recently saw pictures of very attractive other women.


Sexual attractiveness has been an important issue in all human cultures. Numerous examples can be found u. a. in Mesopotamia and in the Middle Ages .

Sexual attractiveness is a control characteristic of human reproduction. This is where it serves

  1. self-expression (presentation as healthy and fertile) and
  2. the reward (success through preferential treatment, enjoyment of respect, etc.)

The effect can be direct and immediate for the person and viewer (for example through the sexual act), but also abstractly and symbolically (for example as a fan ). In any case, this effect creates the need for continuation, repetition or increase.

Because average faces are the most attractive, they are widely used in the mass media. Techniques such as beauty retouching increase the attractiveness of the pictures. In addition to the universal attractiveness features, there are fashionable elements such as, for example, the intimate shaving in recent years, which is reflected in more recent pornography . In China during the imperial era, the lotus foot was regarded as a sexual attraction.


Matching describes the similarity in the physical attractiveness of partners. Studies have shown that on average there is a positive correlation between the physical attractiveness of couples (that is, “pretty people usually have pretty partners”). Likewise, the extent of the matching turns out to be a predictor of the stability of the relationship. In reality, unequal external attractiveness is often compensated for by other factors, such as economic success, etc. This exchange of (social) goods for attractiveness can also be found in sales and model prostitution .

For example, the main finding of empirical research by Franklin B. Evans for sales is: “The more similar the seller and customer are, the greater the likelihood that a purchase will be made. The similarity was measured in the dimensions of age , body size , income , religion , upbringing , political attitudes and smoking habits . ”A closer look at these dimensions reveals that non-verbal characteristics - in particular body size and odor - signal effect for the potential human being Have status and acceptance from the other person. This knowledge is reflected , for example, in the pursuit of status symbols and attentive personal hygiene for salespeople or in the selection of socially appropriate typologies in recruiting .

Evolution theorist Oliver Curry expects that humanity will split into two subspecies on the basis of matching. The genetic upper class would be tall, lean, attractive, intelligent and creative; the lower class would be stupid, ugly and stocky.

See also


Popular science

Specialist literature

More literature under : Attractiveness research

Web links

Wiktionary: attractiveness  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Eagly, AH, Ashmore, RD, Makhijani, MG, & Longo, LC (1991): What is beautiful is good, but ...: A meta-analytic review of research on the physical attractiveness stereotype. Psychological bulletin, 110 (1), p. 109.
  2. Langlois, JH, Ritter, JM, Roggman, LA, & Vaughn, LS (1991): Facial diversity and infant preferences for attractive faces. Developmental Psychology, 27 (1), p. 79.
  3. ^ Van Leeuwen, ML, & Neil Macrae, C. (2004): Is beautiful always good? Implicit benefits of facial attractiveness. Social cognition, 22 (6), pp. 637-649.
  4. Marissa A. Harrison, Jennifer C. Shortall, Franco Dispenza, Gordon G. Gallup: You must have been a beautiful baby: Ratings of infant facial attractiveness fail to predict ratings of adult attractiveness . In: Infant Behavior and Development . tape 34 , no. 4 , December 2011, p. 610–616 , doi : 10.1016 / j.infbeh.2011.06.003 ( [accessed April 4, 2020]).
  5. APA PsycNet. Retrieved April 4, 2020 .
  6. Leslie A. Zebrowitz, Karen Olson, Karen Hoffman: Stability of baby faceness and attractiveness across the life span. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology . tape 64 , no. 3 , 1993, ISSN  1939-1315 , pp. 453-466 , doi : 10.1037 / 0022-3514.64.3.453 .
  7. Volkert Haas: Love and Sexuality in the Ancient Orient. CH Beck-Verlag, 1999.
  8. Christian Rohr : Love in Middle Latin Parodies from the 9th to 13th Century (PDF; 147 kB)
  9. Renate-Berenike Schmidt, Uwe Sielert: Handbook on Sexual Education and Sexual Education. Juventa publishing house, 2008.
  10. Virtual Beauty , accessed on February 27, 2011.
  11. Manfred Dworschak: Body culture: The second face. July 13, 2009, accessed January 2, 2017 .
  12. Human species 'may split in two'. In: October 17, 2006, accessed January 2, 2017 .