Physical Attractiveness Phenomenon (PAP)

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What is Physical Attractiveness (PA)?

Physical Attractiveness (PA) is how pleasing someone or something looks.

Despite its seemingly simple core definition, significant complexities and important consequences connect with physical attractiveness (PA). Many complicated interdependent factors, physical and non-physical, determine its perceived level for females and males, young and old. All people inherit their PA that ranges from high to low, and alter it to varying extents through a variety of ways and costs. Uncontrollable changes of our PA also occur, accidentally as well as naturally during our lifetimes. Researchers literally around the world study PA. They represent professional fields that range from A to Z, anthropology to zoology, with most research conducted in subfields of psychology. These ongoing efforts and investigations collectively document that PA matters more than you ever imagined. Whether viewing appearance of others, appearance of ourselves, or appearance of our living and working environments, physical attractiveness phenomenon applies. Higher physical attractiveness is valued more highly than lower physical attractiveness, regardless if a person is interacting with another person, product, or environment. “People work better, feel better, and are more amiable and happier if they experience beautiful shapes and colors in the objects with which they surround themselves…,” according to Ellen Key (1849-1926), Swedish reformer and educationalist. A 2004 article published by BusinessWeek stated, “Now, Microsoft wants to be known for its aesthetics” to an extent that it raises questions concerning appearance, i.e., physical attractiveness, about their latest product, “Is it a case of design trumping function?” to which the company responds, “We’re looking to attract people who appreciate design.” Researchers continuously advance the boundaries of knowledge about physical attractiveness phenomenon. While people are mostly the focus of their research, mounting knowledge and understanding of physical attractiveness phenomenon holds applications, strategies, and benefits for nonliving inanimate entities (e.g. products) and living nonhuman organisms (such as, pets, organizations and brands).

Admitted or not, Physical Attractiveness (PA) could be a Detriment or Benefit, Asset or Liability, Blessing or Curse.

Regardless of entity or organism, PA can be an asset or liability, benefit or detriment, blessing or curse. It can make the holder strong or weak, liked or disliked, and desired or undesired.  The impact of physical attractiveness phenomenon is pervasive and powerful, while often unrecognized, unknown, or not admitted and denied. It begins with the use of appearance/physical attractiveness as a cue for information. 

Importance of Physical Attractiveness (PA)

Physical attractiveness (PA) is far more than meets the eye with effects that run far beyond skin deep. Although many dimensions comprise a person’s appearance, PA dominates in importance. It affects both observers and the observed, or beholders and the beheld. Furthermore, small differences regularly translate into big consequences. In other words, small differences in a person’s looks that determine higher or lower levels of PA translate regularly into big consequences in life. PA ranges from high to low and carries corresponding values and consequences. However discomforting to realize or acknowledge, higher PA does serve as a benefit whereas lower PA serves as a detriment. It can grant power or confer weakness, be a blessing or a curse, and an asset or a liability that works to a person’s advantage or disadvantage. What it communicates often eclipses, as well as interrelated with, age, education, ethnicity, socioeconomics, intelligence, health-illness, respect, authority, expertise, liking, sex appeal, suspicion-trust, power, influence, and so forth. Instantly upon sight, in-person or by photo, people consciously and subconsciously assess the PA dimension of a person’s appearance. People then use PA as informational cue to infer much about a person. In-turn, a person’s PA triggers assumptions, expectations, attitudes, behaviors, and consequences…far more than realized or admitted. Ultimately, PA impacts an individual person’s income, employment, finances, education, health, friendships, dating and mating, children, self-esteem, medical care, and much more. Beyond an individual person, PA impacts and is interrelated with society, culture, businesses, not-for-profile helping organizations, fashions and fads, products and services of all sorts, certain medical fields, and much more.

Importance and Benefits of PA

Instantly upon sight, people consciously and subconsciously assess the PA dimension of a person’s appearance. PA triggers assumptions, expectations, attitudes, behaviors, and consequences…far more than realized or admitted.  PA impacts an individual person’s income, employment, finances, education, health, friendships, dating and mating, children, self-esteem, medical care, and much more.

What is Physical Attractiveness Phenomenon (PAP)?

Physical Attractiveness Phenomenon (PAP) is the collective realities of Physical Attractiveness (PA). It is powerful, pervasive, and often unrecognized or denied. It impacts every individual, throughout every community, across the United States and around the world. These realities connected to a person’s PA exist throughout life–literally from birth to death, from cradle to grave–and, increasingly, even before life begins. PAP is not limited to a particular sex, age, race, income, or geographical location. It affects males and females, young and old, rich and poor, white and black, small town and big city, and all other people regardless of demographic and socioeconomic descriptor. Generally and overwhelmingly, an appearance higher in physical attractiveness is beneficial whereas an appearance lower in physical attractiveness is detrimental. And, this reality translates into social consequences with political and ethical dilemmas that range from realities concerning ideals about all people being born equal to unreasonable pursuits of higher levels of PA. Of course, exceptions occur concerning all phenomena. And, as for all phenomenons, exceptions to the rule do not disprove or invalidate the rule. In summary, however discomforting the related facts, the reality is that what you look like–or, more important, how your looks are perceived, by others and by yourself–shapes your life in dozens of subtle and not so subtle ways from cradle to grave. A few examples might be:

— PA affects the way nurses treat newborns in the same way that it shapes the manner in which parents act and react with their children.

— PA influences a child’s self-image and becomes a significant factor in how teachers evaluate, assist and grade pupils from kindergarten to graduate school.

— It’s a key factor in finding and keeping mates and close friends, in choosing an occupation and in finding or keeping a job and in defining the limits of an individual’s success in their chosen field.

— PA affects who gets hired, subsequent promotions and earnings, as well as who gets elected to political offices.

— PA effects permeate such supposedly neutral arenas as courtrooms and elections. Juries, for example, tend to attach more credence to the arguments of a winsome attorney than to that of his or her less enticing counterpart. Each witness’ testimony is processes through, often unconsciously, through jurors’ perceptions of their PA and anyone accused of a crime is judged as much on their personal PA as on the facts introduced to a jury.

Framework of Physical Attractiveness Phenomenon (PAP)

PaDiagram The diagram above summarizes physical attractiveness phenomenon (PAP), to provide description, understanding, and prediction about PA. As depicted in this diagram, PAP is a circular, continuous, four-stage process with each stage flowing from the prior stage into the next stage, in a manner that, appearance, particularly physical attractiveness:

        • serves as an informational cue,
        • from which people infer extensive information,
        • that triggers assumptions, expectations, attitudes, and behaviors,
        • that cause benefits or detriments for people based on their respective level of higher or lower physical attractiveness.

This diagram representation of PAP emerges from a macro-perspective that extracts the essence of thousands of directly and indirectly related research projects combined with even larger numbers of less empirical, more anecdotal, observations. These four stages, combined with myriad sub-stages, establish and promulgate PAP, along with its values through an interconnected continuous relationship of influence and reinforcement. Located in the most central position of the PAP diagram representation, determinants of PA are:

    • Many and Complicated
  • Unequal and Shifting in Appeal
  • Physical and Non-Physical
  • Compensatory and Non-Compensatory
  • Enduring and Transient
  • Affected by Influencers, Dynamic and Many
  • Ultimately a Gestalt, whereby the Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts
Located in the most central position of the PAP diagram representation, determinants of PA are:

  • Hidden or unseen values of PA with realities of PAP are often unrecognized or denied.
  • Influences of PA/PAP permeate every person’s life from birth to death, and range from employment to entertainment to everywhere in-between.
  • Researchers in diverse, scientific, scholarly disciplines study PA/PAP.
  • Not-for-profit organizations, government agencies, businesses, and individuals all expend efforts and attention in regard to PA/PAP.

Abbreviation & Explanatory Footnote regarding PAP

“PAP” abbreviates the lengthy “physical attractiveness phenomenon” phrase and is a term used accordingly throughout this website and increasingly elsewhere. Likewise, “PA” abbreviates “physical attractiveness.” The first letter of each of the three words (Physical Attractiveness Phenomenon) form the abbreviated PAP term used in regard to this substantial corresponding field of knowledge and work. It is written in all upper case letters nearly always without periods (PAP) and infrequently with periods (P.A.P.) or dashes (P-A-P). In this context, PAP serves as a noun and is pronounced either as a one-syllable word (PAP) or pronounced by articulating individually each of its three separate alphabet letters (P-A-P). Pronounced as a one-syllable word, PAP is the visual counterpart to the audio sounding word POP. To use the “PAP” abbreviation in the context of physical attractiveness research evolved after years of consideration and deliberated hesitation. The delay related mostly to consideration that a form of the PAP abbreviation, as spoken in the English language in the United States, is most commonly identified in a context of medical procedures. A secondary consideration related to most standard dictionaries, which list the word pap as a noun defined first in a context of semi-liquid foods and second in a context of matters thought to be less than important. Analogous to most abbreviations, people use the PAP abbreviation in the American English language to represent literally hundreds of different things, entities, and organizations. As I looked into the topic of abbreviations, people use the PAP abbreviation to designate specific different meanings within science and medicine, organizations and schools, information technology, military and government, and business and finance, as well as some in pop culture. Nevertheless, generally in the American English language spoken in the United States culture, “Pap” (with the first letter in upper case and the following two letters in lower case) most immediately brings to mind a medical test procedure. In that use, Pap serves as an adjective such as “Pap test” or “Pap smear” to reference a type of medical procedure developed by the prominent physician (Georgios Papanikolaou, 1883-1962) whose last name is abbreviated to its first three letters in this context.

Society & Culture & PAP

Influence of Society and Culture Starts Early

Parents promulgate physical attractiveness phenomenon (PAP) to their children in ways intended and not intended. In turn, these children further promulgate the phenomenon to their peers and, eventually, as they age and become parents themselves, to their children. Socialization or indoctrination of children with physical attractiveness phenomenon begins innocently with good, honorable intentions. However, lessons learned or otherwise embraced early about physical attractiveness extend far beyond childhood, as demonstrated lifelong in variant forms. As a result, people of all ages consciously and subconsciously demonstrate their beliefs: positive, favorable, and complimentary to individuals of higher physical attractiveness and quite the opposite toward individuals of lower physical attractiveness.

Influence Crosses Culture Boundaries

Physical attractiveness phenomenon (PAP) is universal. Therefore, reasons interpreted or offered to explain occurrences manifested in everyday life or identified in scientific research often go to the core of human existence. Among the different cultures between and within countries that translate physical attractiveness phenomenon somewhat distinctively, the similarities are overwhelming. The findings document that people worldwide favor, and treat accordingly, higher physical attractiveness over lower, and the accompanying phenomenon transcends time, geography, and culture. Findings reported by research around the world consistently suggests extrapolation and generalizations that attest to the robustness of physical attractiveness phenomenon. One such research, see the table below, shows universal preference of ‘supermodels’ over other individuals. Table Showing Percentage (%) of Men in the United States and Percentage (%) of Men in Fourteen Other Countries Stating Whom They Would Like Most to Sit Beside on a Long Flight ……………………. % of Men in ………….. % of Men in Other …………………… United States …………. 15 Surveyed Countries                                                                                                         . Supermodel …….… 29% ………………………….. 32% Country’s Leader … 23% ………………………….. 16% Comedian …………. 19% ………………………….. 20% Stockbroker …..…… 10% ……………………………. 9% Sports Star …………. 7% ………………………….. 12% Pastor/Priest ……..… 6% …………………………….. 5% Cartoon Character … 4% ………………….…..…. 4% Your Boss ……..…… 2% ……………………………… 2%

Psychological and Social Benefits Influence Perceptions 

Why is it that when you change the way you look at things, the things change? Research findings reveal that physical attractiveness plays a dramatic, but largely a not examined and involuntary role in an individual’s interpersonal interactions. How others perceive and respond to the individual, and even in the individual’s personality development is strongly influenced by the attractiveness quotient of the person. Generally, the more physically attractive an individual is, the more positively people perceive the person, the more favorably people respond to the person, and the more successful the person’s personal and professional lives are presumed to be. Through self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as the Pygmalion Effect, some attributions convert into reality in the lives of people depending on their higher or lower physical attractiveness. How attractive an individual perceives himself or herself may or may not match the view from the outside i.e. match others’ assessment. Even with perceptions, attributions, and realities in their favor due to their physical attractiveness, some continue to endure privately a sense of doubt, inadequacy, or even revulsion over their appearance to extents that affect everyday living and even life itself.

Reasons for Influence of PA

Why does it become important or has so much currency? Because physical appearance is conspicuous, tangible, providing unparalleled visibility and accessibility when compared with other less accessible attributes, such as, good thinking, skills, character etc. Beauty is a form of genius — is higher, indeed, than genius as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princess of those who have it”.  Sloan Wilson

Race & PAP

Few features about a person are as abundantly readily accessible as physical attractiveness, which accounts for a sizable portion of why people consistently use physical attractiveness as an informational cue. Among other comparatively visible features such as a person’s race and age, which of course are not always accurately discernible for all individuals, physical attractiveness predominates in informational importance. Race and age demographics might be equally apparent with physical attractiveness, and might have exerted greater influence in times past, but use of physical attractiveness as an informational cue overwhelmingly transcends these demographic categorizations. Regardless of potentially complicating effects due to inter-dependencies between a person’s features, people deem a person’s physical attractiveness to be more informative with greater consequences than a person’s race or age. Race and age demographics might be equally apparent with physical attractiveness, and might have exerted greater influence in times past, but use of physical attractiveness as an informational cue overwhelmingly transcends these demographic categorizations. Regardless of potentially complicating effects due to inter-dependencies between a person’s features, people deem a person’s physical attractiveness to be more informative with greater consequences than a person’s race or age. Physical attractiveness permeates most manifestations of social behavior and culture, perhaps as has been the case for millennium and likely even since the appearance of life on earth. Scientific research has documented well this pervasiveness, even though it has specifically addressed physical attractiveness as part of appearance phenomenon for only a relatively short period. Scholarly research investigations present an impressive depth and breadth of research methodologies with profound consistency of discoveries. People’s attitudes, beliefs, and ultimately actions in response to different levels of physical attractiveness range in magnitude from subtle nuances to overt discrimination. Still, most people claim ignorance of, or indifference to, the force of physical attractiveness functioning within most everyday aspects of education, politics, business, law enforcement and legal proceedings, as well as social valuation, cognition, and interaction. People who prefer to interact with others of the same race illustrate well the transcending power of physical attractiveness. Despite predisposition toward same-race individuals, people increasingly, albeit subtly without overt proclamation, seem to prefer another person of a different race whose appearance is higher in physical attractiveness than a person of their same race whose appearance is low in physical attractiveness. Some circumstantial data in support are –

  • The increasing number of interracial marriages in the United States which had nearly tripled to 1,674,000 interracial marriages with at least one black/African American or white/Caucasian spouse in 2002, up from 651,000 in 1980.
  • Gallup Organization provides supporting scientific data, albeit less specific to physical attractiveness, reported in a 2004 article, “70 percent of whites now say they approve of marriage between whites and blacks, up from just 4 percent in a 1958 Gallup poll,” while “80 percent of blacks and 77 percent of Hispanics also say they generally approve of interracial marriages.” Also reported, 71% of American adults overall “would not object to a child or grandchild’s marrying someone of another race. Perhaps even more remarkable, a large majority of white respondents—66 percent—say they would not object if their child or grandchild chose a black (African American) spouse. African Americans (86 percent) and Hispanics (79 percent) were equally accepting about a child or grandchild’s marrying someone of another race.”

Moreover, scientific endeavors have unveiled findings documenting that physical attractiveness affects males and females of all ages, races, nationalities, religions, and affiliations in similar patterns. Society and individuals bestow rewards associated with social desirability to both genders in rough proportion to one’s level of physical attractiveness. Another dimension to physical attractiveness phenomenon and race is the diminishing resistance among some ethnicities to enhance their physical attractiveness through cosmetic surgery. Besides, black skin scar much more easily than white skin. This may be a deterrent for desiring cosmetic surgery but it may partially explain why African Americans represent the largest market of beauty products today in the United States, spending more than $20 billion annually. However, “the number of blacks seeking facial or reconstructive surgery more than tripled between 1997 and 2002, reflecting both the growing affluence of African Americans and the subtle easing of some long held cultural taboos against such procedures,” as well as reflecting advances in technology and surgeon skills.

Societal and Cultural Presence of PA

Former American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaking complimentarily, if not enviously, in 2005 about the physical attractiveness of the body possessed by her successor, the much younger American Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, stated, “I think she looks great. And I would give anything to have a figure like hers.” Today, approximately ten million people continue to watch the one-evening television broadcast each year for each of the Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Universe pageants. At least one country, Canada, has tried to eliminate this scenario by canceling all national beauty contests as of 1992, based on the argument they are degrading to women.

Age & PAP

“I’m 19, that’s how I keep in shape,” responded pop star Avril Lavigne in a 2004 interview discussing how she keeps her exceptional beauty represented by the shape of her body. This sums up the attitude that our society has towards relation of age with attractiveness. Age has always wielded a high-ranking role for physical attractiveness phenomenon, but its overt recognition and the explicit pursuit of younger appearances are more intense today than the past, and likely to be less intense today than tomorrow. One difference is that, although physical attractiveness always has been a significant factor for people of all ages throughout history, it has not been as explicitly important as it is today for younger and older age groups. Open acknowledgement of the importance of physical attractiveness in our lives has expanded radically and increasingly among both younger ages and older ages. To look more physically attractive, a growing portion of elementary school girls diet, and a substantial number of junior high school boys use illegal body enhancing drugs. In fact, the author of a major national study reported in Psychology Today says that dieting is “very common—even among girls as young as 9 years old.” The age continuum’s other end reveals males in their 50s and 60s obtaining cosmetic surgeries under the premise to compete in the workplace, while women of older ages secure cosmetic surgeries and medical procedures with the idea of transforming the body’s outside to match how she feels internally. Between these younger and older age groups, a national survey in 2005 of more than 1,700 people revealed an overall average of 30.9 years of age as when a woman is most physically attractive. “In youth and beauty, wisdom is but rare!” proclaimed English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) in The Odyssey of Homer. Values and pursuit of greater physical attractiveness related to youth at the expense of potential perceptions of wisdom is neither new nor limited to any one country. “The fight against old age [to avoid this determinant of physical attractiveness] has long been good business, and it’s only getting better. Global retail sales of antiaging skin-care products—up 71% since 2000—are rising faster than any other segment of the skin-care market, according to Euromonitor, a market researcher, hitting $9.9 billion [in 2004].” As distasteful as it is to some people, an artifact of physical attractiveness phenomenon is that people regularly grant social powers to females based on physical attractiveness characteristics that is, in turn, interrelated strongly with age realities. This practice is just one of many complex double standards of thinking in which long held thoughts and behaviors link aging more negatively with physical attractiveness for women than for men. Some people even argue that perception of a woman’s intelligence diminishes in correlation to her degree of beauty. This argument might underlie why “it’s hard telling your mother that you don’t want to look like her when you’re 50,” according to a 29-year old female, who after cosmetic surgery, went on to say, “I think my mother resented that and felt hurt, but I had to be honest.” If so, in the extreme it might be a kind of infantilism, which, as interpreted by Sigmund Freud, was to deny reality in favor of imagination. This interpretation of Freud’s infantilism applied to beauty discrimination might ultimately promulgate a society inclined to view women opposite to the primary fact of physical attractiveness phenomenon. Beauty discrimination referenced in the prior paragraph grants certain social powers to women of greater beauty based on presumptions about greater capabilities. People overwhelmingly equate greater physical attractiveness, in this case greater beauty, with better non-physical traits and skills. The opposite or reverse would equate fewer capabilities, fewer skills, and less desirable adult characteristics for women who possess higher physical attractiveness. Women who compete in beauty contests, particularly those who win, at times substantiate inverse perceptions held by the public about a woman’s abilities and her physical attractiveness. Sometimes people express these perceptions as jokes that a person of high physical attractiveness, or a woman of great beauty, cannot be a person also of high intelligence. Nevertheless, people regularly demonstrate public recognition of the value of physical attractiveness through formal beauty pageants that continue around the world. In the United States, where the number of television viewers of the annual Miss America pageant has decreased significantly since its first annual broadcast in 1960, the pageant has sustained viewers more than forty-five years, which longevity is without parallel when compared with other network broadcast shows that rarely sustain beyond a few years. Today, approximately ten million people continue to watch the one-evening television broadcast each year for each of the Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Universe pageants. At least one country, Canada, has tried to eliminate this scenario by canceling all national beauty contests as of 1992, based on the argument they are degrading to women. Another end of the beauty pageant continuum is the country of West Africa, “where at least in the southern area of the Sahara, the government sponsored [beauty pageant is] the most public of the annual [events].” Unique in rather mainstream pageants around the world, the Sahara contest features male beauty. Also unique among world beauty pageants, China, in 2004, held the first pageant for contestants with cosmetic surgery. The genesis of the pageant stemmed from an 18-year-old contestant disqualified because of her cosmetic surgery from another Chinese beauty pageant, who sued for emotional damages for that disqualification. One of the female organizers of the new event said, “This contest shows women’s strong pursuit of beauty,” and “we would like to use it to unveil the mystery of manmade beauty…” Women’s reproductive role has long been a critical component in cultural values of women’s physical attractiveness, as revealed in sociobiology studies of natural selection and sexual selection. However, the importance of physical attractiveness seems no longer to diminish with age. Historical anecdotes to the contrary are decreasing rapidly today in a world where perceived age is more important than actual age. Directly challenging formal notions of natural selection, standards of physical attractiveness driven by the appearance phenomenon for much more youthful looking women apply even to women in their forties and fifties. Factors other than evolutionary principles, at least reproductive aspects of evolution, can at times better explain contemporary behaviors. Here, adhering to physical attractiveness phenomenon elevates the value of one’s own existence above the evolutionary principle for instinctual promulgation of one’s species. Despite standards for physical attractiveness that are sometimes unrealistic, the appearance phenomenon and physical attractiveness phenomenon compel continuous pursuit of improvements. Pursuit is encouraged by improved cosmetic surgery techniques and technologies, easier access to and greater availability of cosmetic surgeries, shifting acceptance toward cosmetic surgery, and aging public figures who maintain their younger appearance. Although at least one clinical professor of cosmetic surgery asserts that “surgery will never make you look younger, but it can help you look better,” people at disquieting rates pursue both. Witness the whopping increase of more than 400 percent for Americans who received cosmetic surgeries in 2003 compared to ten years earlier (1.8 million versus 330,000). Among them is the well-known American pop singer Cher. At 60 years of age she possessed an appearance very high in physical attractiveness with features characteristic of much younger ages: lack of wrinkles, free of shrinking lips, void of drooping eyelids, exempt from thinning or graying hair, unfettered from less than bright white teeth, possessing flawless complexion, and liberated from sagging body parts. No known biological code of nature would equip a woman of that age to possess those age-affiliated looks. Instead, a woman might pursue these younger age characteristics to escalate perception of her sexual capability in hopes of capturing other benefits to satisfy her needs. As put forth in a 2004 Newsweek article by a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine: “We have evidence showing that whether we like it or not, appearance does matter…and we know that especially among women, we equate beauty with youthfulness.” Women’s awareness of stereotypically attractive bodies is not limited to song and film stars. Similar wishes and values about physical attractiveness exist among even the most politically powerful and politically correct women. Former American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaking complimentarily, if not enviously, in 2005 about the physical attractiveness of the body possessed by her successor, the much younger American Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, stated, “I think she looks great. And I would give anything to have a figure like hers.” “Trying to present yourself as looking as young as possible might actually make practical sense.” Evolutionary theory suggests this pursuit by older persons, not strictly because of reproductive inclinations, as people frequently view Darwin’s perspective, but by survival inclinations that are also part of Darwin’s perspective. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a more moderate theory, offers a potentially more plausible explanation based on physical, security, social, esteem, and self-actualization needs. Men of ages similar to the pop singer Cher, in their 50s, 60s, or older, might well pursue women whose appearance reflects higher physical attractiveness more consistent with younger ages than with actual chronological age. The motivation for men is not the sexual reproductive capabilities (or lack thereof) of these women. Rather, the likely driver for men is a perception aligned with an extension of physical attractiveness phenomenon. Specifically, the appeal is that the physical attractiveness of these women enhances men’s regard for them because of the perceived younger age and equivalent reproductive ability of those ages (even in the context of the men’s own naturally diminished reproductive-performance capability). Of course, this, too, explains rather closely the motivations of aging women to pursue enhancement of their physical attractiveness to levels more consistent with younger ages than with their actual chronological age. Many factors contribute to the dramatic changes concerning aging and physical attractiveness. Particularly in the United States and other western countries, the baby boom effect means the increasing larger population of people entering older life stages, accompanied with stereotypically declining levels of physical attractiveness and potential financial means to counter these declines. The baby boom cited here comprise individuals born between 1945 and 1960, a period spanning approximately 15 years after World War II ended. At the same time, improvements in medical technology for cosmetic surgeries are surging, and societal attitudes toward cosmetic surgery are changing dramatically more favorable. With people living longer than ever before, they experience a greater decline in their physical attractiveness than ever before. People in the United States today commonly live to their late seventies and eighties, whereas, in 1900, forty-seven years of age was the average lifespan in the United States. All the while, documentation reveals “that men pay more attention to looks than women do [in selecting mates], which has now been shown in many societies,” and “the power of female youth in men’s [physical] attractiveness judgments…is universal.”

Gender & PAP

The impact exerted by physical attractiveness in every culture continues to be greater for females than males. One indication that males around the world place greater importance on physical attractiveness of females is a 2002 magazine survey conducted with readers in the United States and the following other countries: Australia, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, and United Kingdom (UK). Researchers asked respondents, “Whom would you most like to sit next to on a long airplane flight?” They placed persons based on physical attractiveness (i.e., supermodels) at the top. Based on these data, physical attractiveness phenomenon seems clearly in charge; in fact, respondents placed people synonymous with high physical attractiveness not just merely at the top but a very large distance from other choices. Even the second preferred choice (country’s leader) was approximately one-half the first choice percentage, followed by professional entertainers, financial advisers, religious leaders, and others. Females are held to higher standards by both genders and are subjected more frequently to negative effects stemming from envy when the “pleasure of regarding beauty turns to resentment.” Gender stereotypes persist, with importance ratings different for males and females of all ages. People equate higher physical attractiveness with greater femininity for females and greater masculinity for males. Males continue to place greater emphasis on their mate’s physical attractiveness, including mate retention, than do females. Especially in the domain of facial attractiveness, gender difference is well established, with no question that females are “judged by their [physical] attractiveness to a greater extent than are males, and that these judgments have real consequences for them. Also, despite its abstract nature, physical attractiveness of females as opposed to males is more precisely defined or delineated, more well known, and has higher agreement. However Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a medical ailment believed to inflict males and females about equally. Professionals define BDD as extreme subjective feelings of ugliness regardless of a quite normal appearance, and people with BDD exhibit obsession with one or more facial or body features that may or may not deviate from norms of appearance. Individuals of both genders with these mental distortions seem to think, “I must be perfect, I must be noticed; the only way to feel better is to look better; if I am not the best looking in a social gathering I cannot have a good time; if my body part of concern is not beautiful, then it must be ugly.” Correspondingly, BDD aligns closely with differing values imposed through physical attractiveness phenomenon upon and within people of higher and lower physical attractiveness. Few medical practitioners knew of BDD before the early 1990s, but the ailment is neither new nor rare. Even though the diagnostic source book (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) for clinicians of psychiatry and psychology did not recognize BDD until its 1987 DSM-III-R, it was written about as early as 1891. Professionals estimate body dysmorphic disorder to inflict approximately 1.5 percent of people and actual rates are likely higher due to motivations among those inflicted to keep their ailment secret. Plastic surgery is becoming more popular among Americans. TV shows such as “Extreme Makeover” and “Nip/Tuck” made people more aware of the possibilities of plastic surgery. About 71% of all surgical procedures and 87% of all non-surgical procedures were performed on women.

Universal Associations regarding PA

Indicates Youthfulness and Greater Health

Contemporary scientific data increasingly confirm hypotheses that people associate higher physical attractiveness with perception of greater health, which then leads to people placing greater value on correspondingly greater physical attractiveness. Reality is that a person’s physical attractiveness strongly signals corresponding levels of health as well as age. In turn, health and age are integrally interdependent appearance variables that contribute to the determination of a person’s physical attractiveness—looks of greater health and younger ages translate into perceptions of higher physical attractiveness. This explains why, on top of the vast array of available cosmetic surgeries, facial treatments, and over-the-counter products, people continue to demand more and more prescription-required pharmaceutical drugs. The huge and growing demand for surgical and nonsurgical means to increase a person’s physical attractiveness drives the research and development, marketing, and prescribing of products deemed pertinent. Advanced science is being used increasingly, even combining chemical and electronic technologies to produce new, pricey alternatives to reverse face wrinkles. A new facial filler product called Sculptra, approved The The U. S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] in 2004, proved to be an instant hit. The product, first approved in Europe in 1999 to fill creases and wrinkles, is now available in more than thirty countries worldwide. Use of FDA approved products such as Restylane and Botox for minimally invasive wrinkle treatments is growing dramatically to appear young and healthier.

Convergence in Views Regarding Physical Attractiveness

Physical attractiveness is certainly an esthetic for which there is no absolute gauge, but, maybe surprising, there is convincing agreement about physical attractiveness of males and females of all ages, when rated by males and females of all ages in all cultures and all times. Very clearly, contemporary times show increasing convergence about physical attractiveness standards/determinants between races and cultures, as well as continuance of the larger physical attractiveness phenomenon between races and cultures throughout history. A reason for diminished plurality among races and cultures about determinants of physical attractiveness is that modern communications technology, combined with widespread acceptance of fashions and lifestyles, is producing what can be recognized as a global village, leading to a universal standard of physical attractiveness. Accordingly, despite the Santayana’s notion that beauty is indescribable, people can and do predict with great accuracy the level of physical attractiveness that a person will likely perceive when exposed to another person.

Health & Youth & Universal Associations

Looks of greater health and younger ages translate into perceptions of higher physical attractiveness, e.g. now chemical and electronic technologies are producing new, pricey alternatives to reverse face wrinkles. Widespread acceptance of fashions and lifestyles is turning the world into a global village, leading to a universal standard of physical attractiveness.

Benefits & Actions of Higher PA

Few people admit, or even realize, that they do judge people by their looks at the workplace and many other seemingly unrelated aspects of life. As discomforting as it might, actions speak louder than words.  One example, allocation of tennis courts for tennis matches at the Wimbledon. With regards to their looks or Physical Attractiveness—much to the benefit of people with higher PA and much to the detriment of people with lower PA—people are not defenseless. Because many factors, both physical and non-physical, determine a person’s PA, most people have actions and alternatives available to them to take their PA higher. “People should ‘not do nothing’, just because they ‘can’t do everything'” as Kate Lorenz, Career Builder, says. Taking actions to enhance inherited physical attractiveness is not new, nor is it cost free. People of all ages and genders expend their limited time and energy, often at unreal and dangerous levels, in pursuit of unattainable goals of higher physical attractiveness. Some people similarly expend financial resources. Taking actions to increase physical attractiveness ranging from noninvasive creams and injections to invasive surgeries is financially costly “but patients say it is worth it,” as reported in a 2004 issue of Newsweek. Robin Bothkopf, a 46-year-old real estate investor in Massachusetts, states, “The cost does bother me, and it’s a pain to go back every few months. But what’s the alternative?”

Higher PA Gets Good ROI (Return-On-Investment)

There is no comparable alternative. Expenditures to enhance physical attractiveness actually translate into financial payoff if higher physical attractiveness is achieved, which might help explain why more than 40% of the more than 8.7 million people who received elective cosmetic surgery in the United States in 2003 financed their pursuits of greater physical attractiveness with loans. Based on a 2005 survey of 1,700 Americans concerning physical attractiveness, Allure Magazine’s editor in chief concluded, women today “like spending time and money taking care of themselves [to increase their physical attractiveness] because they get back a return on that investment (ROI).” Economics has not turned a blind eye to the power and monetary values of PA. Nor has The Federal Reserve Bank in the United States. A 2005 issue of The Regional Economist made public a study about PA (conducted by economists) at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Conclusions from their research corroborated a principle finding identified repeatedly by separate researchers — people with higher physical attractiveness receive higher pay. The Federal Reserve Bank research conclusion provides a sense of assurance and thus comfort about the accuracy of similar findings by dissimilar researchers. But, the Federal Reserve’s conclusion does not lessen the discomfort of knowing that reality.

Recommendations concerning a Person’s PA 

In today’s workplace and other areas of life are not unlike mainstream recommendations concerning a person’s finances in today’s economy. For example:

  • Don’t overstress and let fear or anxiety irrationally overpower your thinking about PA
  • Don’t hastily jump to abruptly overhaul your physical appearance.
  • Expand your portfolio of alternatives to improve your PA to increase probabilities of favorable career and other outcomes, just as you diversify your financial portfolio
  • Don’t panic each time when the latest publicly reported PA research findings come to your attention. If you do nothing different immediately, the probability is good that nothing dramatically negative will occur. Of course doing nothing carries the same likelihood of nothing positive happening.
  • Don’t over-react in pursuit of abrupt enhancement of your looks. Before taking action, take reasonable time with reasonable thought. Remind yourself that you have achieved your current relatively comfortable lot in life with your current looks.

To achieve the highest likelihood of best overall returns, a good financial portfolio should diversify among many investment components and alternatives. Analogously, to achieve your best overall appearance for your workplace and other life goals, you should diversify your alternatives among the many components that contribute to a person’s overall PA. Expand your thinking, with realistic perspectives about alternatives to improve or at least maintain your PA. Most importantly be aware that appearance is a multi-dimensional landscape, in which PA is a powerful prevailing dimension with many defining features—some that represent assets and some liabilities.

Small Differences, Big Consequences

Small differences in a person’s PA can translate into big consequences for career and other successes. A complete makeover is neither necessary nor likely appropriate to reap benefits of looking better at work. And remember there are many non-physical aspects that impact physical attractiveness. Adopting a balanced approach is the best way to higher Physical Attractiveness.

Surface Concerns of PA: Some Examples

The workings of human physical attractiveness (i.e., physical attractiveness phenomenon) prove a history of characteristics and attributed traits that have combined “cheating” with truth. A common principle of beauty, skin tone, for example, has developed surprisingly consistently over time, encompassing enormous geographic and cross-cultural domains. Given the large gaps between cultures and geographies, and the huge disparity between individuals, all immersed in a universe with hidden values ordered by physical attractiveness phenomenon, some “cheating” could be expected in pursuit of greater physical attractiveness.

  • Skin tone is one dimension important to all cultures, but sometimes with opposite values and definitions. Caucasians in the United States seek to darken their skin tone through exposure to natural sunlight, nonnatural tanning lights, and topical lotions. Conversely in China, Japan, South & South-East Asia, Central America, and South America women frequently pursue lighter skin tones by taking active steps to avoid exposure to natural sunlight. Japan’s largest cosmetics firm Shiseido Co. Ltd., famed for its skin-whitening toners and anti-aging creams, is building on women’s desire to age beautifully. Similarly ‘Fair and Lovely’ from Unilever, which promises to make the skin visibly fairer, is the single largest selling cosmetic brand of face creams in India.
  • Arab women, as they have over centuries, use kohl (wholly imported) to accentuate their eyes.
  • Attempting to age beautifully, in other words, attempting to avoid an appearance of aging is not limited to Japan. In the United States, consumers spending approaches $10 billion annually for anti-aging skin products, with sizable increases annually, according to market research firm Packaged Facts.
  • There also are optional surgeries. Not just cosmetic reconstruction of eyelids for Asian Americans or rhinoplasty of noses for African Americans, but autologous (in which donor and recipient are the same person) vein collagen transplantation processes to remedy dermal features judged as defects. These defects include natural but unwanted leg or hand veins; botulinum toxin type A injections (brand named, Botox), as well as newer products (such as Restylane, Juvederm, Radiesse, etc.) to correct normal age lines; and elective or optional surgeries to remove results of earlier optional procedures, such as breast implants and tattoos. It took only a few decades to change attitudes toward them. Along the way, dramatic new dimensions, at altitudes never before dreamed, have come to offset actions and aids previously judged as innocent, routine “cheating” of fate, time, or genes.
  • Regardless of age category, cultures throughout the United States and the world over still hold a double standard in terms of physical attractiveness. “Working women are judged in a different way than men…they have to keep their appearance up,” according to Elliot Jacobs, a plastic surgeon in New York City.49 Women’s successes in the job market have modified their view about enhancing physical attractiveness through cosmetic surgery, which, in earlier times, was a recourse prized by the insecure, but, which is, now an action preferred by those who are or aspire to be successful.
  • Self-help studies and support groups, not to mention completely new associations, have emerged. One ramification is that health and identity have become so greatly intertwined that it is sometimes difficult to ferret out physical attractiveness issues from the more traditional medical issues. For example, HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations), another 1980s creation, routinely set limits on what is medical or medically justified, as opposed to what is optional in terms of apparent cosmetic treatments. The result often produces outcries of individuals determined to secure reimbursed expenditures for enhancing their physical attractiveness. Related reimbursable expenses can represent somewhat unclear distinctions. For example, insurance will routinely reimburse treatment for deformities of the oral region such as the palate, but will not pay for treatment regarding deformities of the teeth.
  • Attempting to keep pace, legislation defines new social policy where state and federal laws regulate certain health care procedures to provide reimbursement for coverage formerly denied on the basis that the procedures were cosmetic. Health care in general has likewise expanded exponentially, becoming a multibillion-dollar industry. The rise of acceptance of cosmetic surgeries, accompanied by increasing social approval, carries substantial economic implications for decisions about insurance reimbursements.
  • Perhaps the most apparent physical attractiveness trend is again a reverberation of the sixties when, almost overnight, thin became the ultimate goal for women. One consequence has been people, particularly females, who embrace this goal at younger and younger ages. Attempts and ideas about being thin are shown as early as fourth grade, although the author of Appearance Obsession states “the correlation between the thin beauty ideal and depression and eating disorders is direct and constant and begins for women in adolescence.” The weight loss industry commands more than $5 billion annually, and American society has bowed almost uniformly to an essentially anorexic model.
  • Almost no one rates a female body as too thin, but people routinely judge even average size women as overweight, with more than 10% over ideal weight frequently deemed a health issue. Exacting Beauty, a scholarly book on body image, proves that body image among the overly thin leads to a host of psychological disturbances.697 The norm today is a mindset goal more akin to appearance achieved through anorexia than appearance achieved through healthy living. This norm increasingly defines higher physical attractiveness, while normal body weight is seen as (hopelessly) diminishing attractiveness, which sets the stage for full-blown eating disorders and health issues—whether anorexia, obesity, or body dysmorphic disorder.
  • Athleticism is, to many, a euphemism for overindulging their body image affliction to attain greater levels of physical attractiveness rather than greater levels of fitness and health. Health as an appearance indicator has blown completely out of proportion to the human organism, with mesomorphic trends in masculinity appearance subsuming ordinary health concerns, such as procreation. Use of steroids has become much more a part of ordinary society. Steroidal use is among the highest drugs consumed in the country, despite known detrimental side effects. Already in 1990, Consumer magazine, published by the United States Food and Drug Administration, reported that American “Teenagers [are] Blasé about Steroid Abuse.”
  • Anabolic steroids are often not used to build muscle by boys and girls, but they are also used by young men who just want to look better. A 2005 survey of 10,000 teenagers in the United States, conducted by Harvard University, found that 8 percent of girls and 12 percent of boys had used anabolic steroids or other such growth hormones and dietary supplements.
  • Athleticism and health clubs have proliferated under the guise of improved health, but the manifest interest is improved appearance. This same author even states that men have essentially caught up with women; that is, “The traditional image of women as sexual objects has simply been expanded: everyone has become an object to be seen.”
  • Similarly, education has acted to assure that perceptions or realities of being overweight do not create the wrong environment for students’ progress, with legislation explicitly against bullying and expressly condemning the derision of physical attributes as unacceptable behavior.

Work & Workplace & PAP

“Working women are judged in a different way than men…they have to keep their appearance up,” according to Elliot Jacobs, a plastic surgeon in

  • New York City. Women’s successes in the job market have modified their view about enhancing physical attractiveness through cosmetic surgery, which, in earlier times, was a recourse prized by the insecure, but, which is, now an action preferred by those who are or aspire to be successful.
  • Perceived social and economic benefits of good looks in men became the driving force for completely new types of cosmetic surgery. The author of a book published early 2000’s reports that 34% of all male Wall Street brokers have undergone facial surgery, a prodigious number, especially given the overall youthfulness among this field to begin with.
  • The weight loss industry matches mass media when it comes to transmitting messages. Likewise, television programming moves hand-in-hand with advertising, studiously stereotyping by looks, or, more precisely, by physical attractiveness. More than communicated before, the frequency of these varied messages with a common theme about enhancing physical attractiveness has increased exponentially.
  • Demography itself might have predicted a sizable portion of this situation. Changes will be always continuous and one need look no farther than so-called baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964, often noted as being born shortly after World War II ended). The 1990s brought the baby boomers into midlife in the United States and in other countries with these particular demographics. This demographic group in the United States comprises about 77 million people, which will continue to affect demand for products, services, and industries associated with physical attractiveness.
  • One ramification is that health and identity have become so greatly intertwined that it is sometimes difficult to ferret out physical attractiveness issues from the more traditional medical issues. For example, HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations), another 1980s creation, routinely set limits on what is medical or medically justified, as opposed to what is optional in terms of apparent cosmetic treatments.

All Ages Impacted by PAP

A Chinese proverb expresses there is only one pretty child in the world and every mother has it. Reality is more intricate, and the younger ages of a person, as well as older ages, do not spare him or her from the impact of physical attractiveness. Starting in infancy, hospital protocols exist for infants deemed ugly, born prematurely, or born with superficial defects, and provide special instruction and support for parents of such children. However hospitals and others do not have provision for special support to children, whose appearance is average, which is to say, lower than high physical attractiveness. Conspicuous childhood disabilities have raised awareness and public consciousness over issues of differences in physical appearances. Diversity training in many areas has bolstered such awareness. Yet, children deemed fat or in other ways physically unattractive still elicit attitudes and influence subsequent discipline. Teenagers are deciding major choices concerning appearance, often using drugs ranging from steroids to diuretics in an attempt to build a better shape. Use of diet techniques and drugs by teenagers is prolific, as are cosmetics and minor dermal surgery, such as body piercing and tattoos. Looks dominate teen magazines and day-to-day activities, including media consumption. Self-help experts write especially for teenagers so they can cope with their special problems, including media consumption. One prominent such writer, Sean Covey, advises teenagers to mind their “spiritual diet” by restraining media use: “Are you feeding your soul nutrients or are you loading it with nuclear waste? …if a one-page ad can sell a bottle of shampoo, don’t you think a full-length movie, magazine, or CD can sell a lifestyle?” Marketers of all sorts use physical attractiveness, also known as looks or good looks, to sell lifestyle to adults as well as to teenagers and younger. Although one would think adults are less impressionable, experiments reveal that such communications affect attitudes approximately equally regardless of maturity. People are either not aware of or are not willing to admit any relationship between a person’s physical attractiveness and perceived personal attributes. Experiments continue to prove that, for the most part, people associate persons of higher physical attractiveness with greater excitement, greater emotional stability, and, generally, a more active and exciting social orientation. Their overall impression attributes glamour to attractive individuals and does not expect the same from less attractive people. The experiments demonstrate that “good looking individuals are thought to share many of the characteristics possessed by glamorous people”50 for whom the range of choices and standards of behavior considerably increase. Unwittingly as children and teenagers, adults formulate expectations and assumptions based on a person’s physical attractiveness, yet firmly believe, or at least proclaim, that physical attractiveness has no significant effect on them. If questioned, they state that, except in their decisions involving relationships, physical attractiveness is superficial and peripheral, and that it does not alter lives. Adults, seemingly as naïve as children, consume cosmetics, clothing, physical alterations, media, and advertising, yet still balk at the admission that a type of discrimination prevails in our culture.

Cosmetic Surgery & Males & Females

Gifts of cosmetic surgery are growing on all dimensions. A 2004 article in the Chicago Tribune about eyelid surgery among Asian Americans cited a family living in Los Angeles. The mother, father, and grandmother had emigrated from China and, with great love for the happiness of their American daughter/granddaughter, “offered to get her plastic surgery, specifically, blepharoplasty, for her fourteenth birthday. Commonly known as Asian eyelid surgery, the procedure entails stitching a permanent crease into the eyelid.” According to that Chicago Tribune article, “the fastest growing type of plastic surgery across the United States for Asians is eyelid surgery and, furthermore, “a rapidly growing number of young girls—both in Asia and the United States—are opting to have the crease surgically added, at a cost starting around $2,000.” For parents and children in India, a 2005 newspaper article reported “a major attitudinal change amongst the parents who are themselves keen to rectify flaws and scars that might exist in their children.”694 One parent, Ajay Kumar, when interviewed, stated, “My daughter had a pointed nose so we decided to get a corrective surgery done last month.” Back to the topic of larger chests, males have not stood still in their own pursuits. As well as exercise and, at times, drugs, breast implants to enlarge chest size have entered the radar screen for men, as well as for women. This development for males to enhance their physical attractiveness comes in the form of pectoral muscle implants that augment male chest size.418 Coinciding with this development is a report published in the late 1990s revealing that during the past 25 years, dissatisfaction with their chests has increased 111% for men (18% to 38%), contrasted with dissatisfaction for women with their breasts that increased 31% (26% to 34%) during the same time. Efforts among males to increase their physical attractiveness have grown extensively. Adult males have gained a sizable portion of the cosmetic surgeries performed annually, while teenage males have demonstrated a serious motivation to enhance their physical attractiveness, often with dangerous means. A 2004 headline article published by The Wall Street Journal read “From Faux Clefts to Implants, [Cosmetic] Procedures for Men Surge; [Despite] The Risks of Nerve Damage.” That article reports data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons revealing that the number of males receiving cosmetic chin augmentations in 2003 was 600 percent more than 1992 and, in 2003 alone, the number increased 70 percent (to 9,583) from the prior year. Less perilous but equally permanent and nearly equal in popularity for males and females, the incidence of tattoos to enhance appearance has also soared in the United States. The change in frequency has accompanied a change in sizes of tattoos, their designs, their locations on the body, and societal acceptance. In 2004, 10 percent of Americans (one in every 10) bore a tattoo compared to 1 percent of Americans (one in 100) in the 1970s. Reports in 2005 indicated that some major American corporations, notably Ford and Wells Fargo, now have policies “that allow body art as part of their appearance codes.” More changes can be expected as younger employees advance into higher level positions, since, as revealed by a Harris Interactive study, the largest segment of the population with tattoos are 25- to 29-year-olds, with 36 percent of these individuals sporting at least one tattoo.

Physical Attractiveness impacts Non-Visible Attributes

Based merely on physical attractiveness, people continue to formulate complex notions about an observed person regardless of any available information to the contrary about the person. These notions translate into different verbal expressions and nonverbal behaviors in the form of either positive or negative responses. Nonverbal responses usually include body language communicated through smiles and frowns, unambiguous facial expressions, head movements, and body gestures. These nonverbal factors seem to equate closely with actual social approval and disapproval, acceptance and denial, of a person. Formative experimental research demonstrates that persons of higher physical attractiveness receive significantly greater frequency of positive looks and smiles than do those of lower physical attractiveness.354 These facial gestures foretell non-visible feelings because more physically attractive evaluators tend to be liked more than their counterparts of lower physical attractiveness by persons being evaluated. Accordingly, people are willing to expend greater effort when requested to perform work by a person of higher physical attractiveness compared to lower. Insight based on data from one research project led the researcher to state:

…a consistent pattern emerges of the [physically] unattractive person being associated with the negative or undesirable pole of the adjective scales and the highly [physically] attractive person being judged significantly more positively.

Why is it that when you change the way you look at things, the things change? Knowledge generated by research findings reveals that physical attractiveness plays a dramatic, but largely unexamined and automatic or involuntary, role in an individual’s interpersonal interactions, in how others perceive and respond to the individual, and even in the individual’s personality development. Generally, the more physically attractive an individual is, the more positively people perceive the person, the more favorably people respond to the person, and the more successful the person’s personal and professional lives are presumed to be. Through self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as the Pygmalion Effect, some attributions convert into reality in the lives of people whose appearances differ in terms of higher and lower physical attractiveness. However, self-perception among some beneficiaries of higher physical attractiveness is not always in accord with the view from the outside. Even with perceptions, attributions, and realities in their favor due to their physical attractiveness, some among these beneficiaries continue to endure privately a sense of doubt, inadequacy, or even revulsion over their appearance to extents that affect everyday living and even life itself.

Measuring PA

The pervasive power wielded by physical attractiveness phenomenon raises questions about what is physical attractiveness, how is it measured, and is it not in the eye of the beholder? People (consciously or subconsciously) make robust assumptions about many non-visible characteristics of other people based on the informational cue provided by an individual’s physical attractiveness. These attributions translate ultimately into benefits and advantages for people who possess higher physical attractiveness, and detriments and disadvantages for those who do not. It seems on first appearance that no one can accurately research physical attractiveness phenomenon because physical attractiveness is subjective. It is an esthetic without objective absolute values or measures. A common mistake by people new to thinking or study about physical attractiveness is the assumption that physical attractiveness is an evaluation unique to each individual and, subsequently, that measuring and determining physical attractiveness are not possible. However that is not the case. Accepted that it has its own obstacles and challenges in measurement but then which branch of social-psychology research hasn’t? To say that people cannot describe or measure physical attractiveness attributes even greater power to physical attractiveness than it has already. It is true that physical attractiveness is not as readily or as commonly described and precisely measured as, say, car speed at which we travel or air temperature around us. Regardless of obstacles, a judicious perspective to keep in mind is that “if something exists, it must exist in some amount, and if something exists in some amount, surely there is some way to measure it”, – Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949), American psychologist and educator. Despite conventional wisdom, or more likely wishful thinking to some people, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder…or, if it is, this beholding is not relevant since there is high agreement between beholders about who and what are high and low in physical attractiveness. Physical attractiveness is certainly an esthetic for which there is no absolute gauge, but, maybe surprising, there is convincing agreement about physical attractiveness of males and females of all ages, when rated by males and females of all ages in all cultures and all times.

What to Measure or Measure Qualification

Research project after research project has shown that objective measure of attractiveness by external judges produces more consistent data than self-measure. Accurate self evaluation of physical attractiveness has proven largely unrealistic. Individuals tend to see themselves “through a dark glass,” producing no statistically significant agreement between self ratings and ratings by others. In contrast, there is high agreement among physical attractiveness ratings between other persons (particularly strangers). This agreement, demonstrated by high correlation values between judges, exists for same sex and opposite sex judges, along with statistical reliability of physical attractiveness evaluations for a person who rates physical attractiveness at one time period and again assigns equivalent ratings later.

Physical Attractiveness Measures are Reliable/Consistent

A consistent measurement result from independent origins is a goal of measurement reliability in scientific research. The data confirm the ‘truth of consensus’ procedure yields a research construct that is highly reliable, as well as utilitarian. To the extent that reliability is the same as agreement between measures, physical attractiveness measures are very reliable. Both primary methodologies for assessing reliability—test retest and multiple procedures—support confirmatory conclusions about the strength of reliability indicated by studies investigating the inter-judge correlations for physical attractiveness measures.

Physical Attractiveness Measures are Valid

The collective physical attractiveness phenomenon research provides assurance for internal validity and external validity. The findings about physical attractiveness phenomenon from laboratory experiments have involved solid internal validity, which permits conclusions that physical attractiveness has caused the resulting variances. Similarly, the findings from field experiments that show solid external validity have verified findings of internally valid experiments. The collective physical attractiveness phenomenon research performs well for convergent validity and discriminant validity as well. Although seldom reported in individual research projects but when explicitly performed and reported, both primary methodologies for assessing validity—multimethod matrix and test retest procedures—support confirmatory conclusions about the strength of convergent and discriminant validity within physical attractiveness phenomenon research.

Truth of Consensus Methodology

In physical attractiveness, researchers employ “Truth of Consensus” research methodology, whereby others judge the physical attractiveness of a stimulus person without explicit reference to any single determinant, i.e., a Gestalt perspective (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). If certain features of a person are significant or not significant in determining physical attractiveness, for research purposes it is largely not important or relevant. The bulk of research germane to physical attractiveness phenomenon necessarily employs a Gestalt perspective whereby “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” to accommodate the vastness and complexity of physical attractiveness and physical attractiveness phenomenon. It is not necessarily simply a person’s outstanding nose or skin or any other single part but it is all the parts together that determine a person’s physical attractiveness.

Research, Issues & Directions regarding PAP

First, knowledge has advanced considerably about physical attractiveness, particularly physical attractiveness phenomenon. Scholarly journals and thousands of published research articles collectively reflect an impressive depth and breadth of investigations with robust research methodologies. The date of 1965 is reasonable to identify as the starting point for research about physical attractiveness phenomenon. The 1965 research article published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology detailed an experiment about attitude change produced by communicators whose appearance varies by different levels of physical attractiveness. The nature of Physical Attractiveness Phenomena is multidimensional The plural form of the term ‘phenomenon’ truly captures the essence as the realms of physical attractiveness are many, with impact in multifaceted dimensions throughout life. Gordon Patzer coined the term Physical Attractiveness Phenomena (PAP) in 1985 as it truly meets the dictionary definition of a phenomenon. The research should have a threefold objective: to advance understanding about appearance, to increase awareness of appearance phenomenon, and to improve assistance for people disadvantaged by appearance phenomenon, all particular to physical attractiveness. Even where the research is applied, say for a product or service, it is likely to gain and profit from if it focuses on above objectives. The research should have a threefold objective: to advance understanding about appearance, to increase awareness of appearance phenomenon, and to improve assistance for people disadvantaged by appearance phenomenon, all particular to physical attractiveness. Even where the research is applied, say for a product or service, it is likely to gain and profit from if it focuses on above objectives. As well as directly advancing knowledge about physical attractiveness phenomenon, it is equally necessary to deal with research methodologies and data collection method in the area of physical attractiveness phenomenon. Accordingly, Dr. Patzer has thus published two books with critical underpinnings for interpreting, analyzing, and qualifying research pertinent to physical attractiveness phenomenon. While the first book is on secondary research data and methodologies, the second book focuses on primary research data and experiment research designs as a research methodology for PAP. The public has demonstrated increasing interest about physical attractiveness, and that interest today is immense. All the while, the conflict or contradictions about physical attractiveness among people are increasingly great. On one hand, people express disapproval and even disdain about others who pursue and/or in any way openly embrace higher levels of physical attractiveness. On the other hand, the adage that actions speak louder than words is manifest, endemic, and even epidemic across the United States and around the world concerning physical attractiveness.

Research Data & Interpretation & Further Research regarding PAP

Not unique to physical attractiveness research, data produced by research in all fields frequently, at least initially, suggest apparent straightforward facts. However, data or facts alone do not provide meaningful understanding. They usually require interpretation and context. For example, finding from a study in 1980 seemed, at least initially, to diverge from the large majority of findings from physical attractiveness phenomenon research. Data showed women of moderate physical attractiveness had more opposite-sex dates and more same-sex socializing compared to their counterparts of high physical attractiveness. The larger context of collective research knowledge about physical attractiveness phenomenon, both then and now, permits at least three explanations for the above data:

  • One explanation is a Matching Hypothesis that motivates people to prefer others whom they judge most similar to themselves in appearance. This reasoning assumes a rather normal or bell-shaped distribution of population and physical attractiveness whereby the majority of persons, i.e., the average person, possesses average physical attractiveness. The two ends of this bell-shaped distribution would then comprise far fewer individuals, respectively possessing lower than average and higher than average physical attractiveness.
  • An alternate explanation regards suitors who consider the probability of success to partner is more likely with others who represent moderate levels of physical attractiveness rather than higher levels.
  • Still another explanation for when moderate physical attractiveness appears preferred over higher levels is that judgments of physical attractiveness as determined by body types may be categorical in a person’s mind rather than continuous. With this explanation, people make judgments or decisions about higher and lower physical attractiveness only when confronted with marked deviations from the average that clearly exceeds some perceptual threshold.

Categorizing Research 

 6 categories for organizing the scattered and fragmented findings in PAP

      1. Ascription  —  the consideration that many factors determine physical attractiveness.
      2. Substratum  —  the historical recognition of a significant physical attractiveness stereotype.
      3. Outgrowth  —  the extensive consequences associated with physical attractiveness phenomenon.
      4. Transfer  —  the transmission of physical attractiveness phenomenon between generations.
      5. Impingement  —  the gradual shifts that occur for preferred ideals of physical attractiveness.
      6. Collectivism  —  the role that society occupies within physical attractiveness phenomenon. 

Attitudes & Motivations & PAP

Consumers in developed markets are becoming increasingly obsessed with their appearance and personal well-being. They are prepared to invest significant sums in self-improvement, in terms of:

    • Looking younger.
    • Shedding weight.

Therefore there is likely to be continued pressure on consumers to pursue the ‘ideal’ body shape this is aggravated by the growing obsession with celebrities, glossy magazines and TV makeover shows. As a result we are seeing a huge availability of product types and technology assisted health services associated with personal health, beauty and fitness. Although mainly occurring in more affluent markets, this trend is also becoming increasingly apparent among affluent urban consumers in developing markets such as China and India, as they have more disposable income to spend on luxuries such as self-improvement. The problem of obesity continues, especially among the lower income segments, as many of today’s children have acquired bad eating habits that follow into adulthood. In some ways the growing obesity pandemic contributes to the beauty industry, as people try to counteract the effects of overeating and lack of exercise by joining slimming clubs, or even undergoing surgical procedures such as so-called ‘tummy tucks’ (abdominoplasty). In populations around the world, cosmetic surgery to varying degrees can be expected to become increasingly commonplace. Speeding this development will be its diminishing stigma and growing availability in context of the general public bombarded with ideal celebrity images combined with lack of willpower concerning food, drink, and exercise. New technological developments, surgical techniques and substances will drive growth in coming years, especially in non-invasive treatments such as dermal fillers, chemical peels and laser skin treatments. Follow through or not by joining members, the fitness-exercise industry is set to grow strongly as people feel motivated, and pressured, to undertake sports and exercise in pursuit of more years and happier years of life. Fitness clubs will focus on segmenting their consumer base to encourage women, baby boomers and busy people looking for a quick workout.

Attitude Towards Food as It Affects Health PA

Obesity has became a hot topic in the United States with consumer activists, political leaders, and others point fingers at the food industry and demanding action. Food companies responded in different ways. Several companies used packaging to promote portion control. Kraft Foods, General Mills and the Frito-Lay unit of PepsiCo all come out with package sizes designed to deliver an acceptable amount of calories. Health concerns also boosted the growth of diet foods. Americans eat a lot of fast food, such as hamburgers, pizza and fried chicken, but their diet embraces an enormous range of foods from all over the world. Staples include potatoes, pasta, breads, and rice. The extensive food-distribution system makes fresh farm products available to all parts of the country almost all year-round. Thus there are a lot of options to choose from. Healthy diet is one of the easiest way to enhance physical attractiveness with better health and looks. Eating habits are changing, maybe too slowly for some, as people become more health conscious, but many people have not changed behaviors significantly. Even portions of food served in restaurants prose tremendously big problems. In these regards, an “obsession” with physical attractiveness, with looking better, may prove sufficiently motivating factor to improve a person’s health; even if it is for less meritorious reasons focused on looking physically good more than being physically healthy.

Research Findings – Three PAP Examples

City and Town What might have been just folklore and a belief of yesterday that city cares more for vanity than villages, may after all be true. Research conducted by Victora Plaut, visiting professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and a colleague assistant professor at the University of Georgia reveals that if you live in a city, looks are far more important than if you live in a smaller town. According to the new study by Plaut published in the scholarly Journal of Personal Relationships, researchers have found that happiness for city women is quite dependent upon physical appearance. Accordingly, while universally important, in the country looks don’t count as  much in terms of overall life satisfaction and happiness. Researcher Plaut reports, “City women who were the most attractive got a lot of bang for their appearance buck” in the city “and if you were even slightly below average, you were very clearly worse off.” For women living in the country, no such significant connection emerged between physical appearance and happiness. Interestingly there was a slight trend in the data for women in the country to be happier if they were chubbier.

For the new study, Plaut and her colleagues interviewed 257 women who lived in the city and 330 from the country. The women were asked to rate their satisfaction with life, their connectedness with friends and community, and their general level of happiness. For a measure of satisfaction, they were asked to rate their lives on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “worst possible life you can imagine” and 10 listed as the “best possible life you can imagine.”

To get a sense of the women’s attractiveness, researchers asked for waist and hip measurements. Other studies have shown that the ratio of waist to hips is a reliable indicator of attractiveness, Plaut explains. The lower the ratio, the slimmer the waist — and the more attractive a woman is considered to be.

Financial and social pressure in the cities is higher for attractiveness contributing to more stress compared with countryside, where the life is more stable. Part of that stability could be emerging from a sense of acceptance that comes from living with people and friends you might have known since elementary school. Fewer people and less unfamiliar faces could be adding to the comfort and happiness quotient. While living in the city, where indviduals are surrounded by so many unknown faces, people might feel the pressure to be cool to fit in. First impressions:  The new findings fall in line with other research, says Michael Cunningham, a psychologist and professor in the department of communications at the University of Louisville, Ky. “In competitive and individualistic cultures you have to compete for limited social attention,” Cunningham says. “Physical attractiveness is one of the variables that gets you social attention and other positive outcomes. But in communal cultures and rural areas, family reputation and other longer-term variables have a bigger impact on your well-being. As a consequence, physical attractiveness doesn’t have as big an impact.”

city_vs_rural_3_sex_in_the_cityThere’s another way to look at it, argues Dr. Alan Manevitz, a psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. People aren’t obsessed with appearance in rural areas simply because the population is too small for there to be much choice.

“If you’re living on a small island and there are 10 people on that island, and one person fishes and another grows vegetables and another chops down trees, it doesn’t matter what anyone looks like,” he adds. “As soon as you begin to have more people you have more competition and then physical appearance becomes more important.”

countrywoman_magAvice Hoff, excutive director of the Miss Montana Scholarship and member of the Montana 4-H Hall of Fame, knows a lot about competition, and she thinks that’s got nothing to do with it. Rather, true beauty can’t be captured by something as simplistic as a waist-to-hip ratio. “Montana women look at other qualities in a person rather than external beauty,” she says.

The researchers haven’t yet looked at how all this plays out in the suburbs. But Plaut suspects that the character of each community has a lot to do with it. In other words, looks are likely to matter a lot more in Pasadena than Peoria.

women-two-friends Explanations by the Researchers:  “City women who were the most attractive got a lot of bang for their appearance buck… and if you were even slightly below average, you were very clearly worse off.”  Whereas, elsewhere, “physical attractiveness is one of the variables that gets you social attention…in communal cultures and rural areas, family reputation and other longer-term variables have a bigger impact.”   Affluent Girls & Not So Affluent Young Women The Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls is now focusing its research exclusively on stress and wellness. In a recent newsletter, they shared findings indicating that “studies of affluent adolescents (those with family incomes above $100,000 per year) find that in comparison to national norms, affluent girls were three times more likely to report significant levels of depression. “Further, research on affluent girls finds that, in comparison to low-income groups, affluent girls had very strong links between physical attractiveness and peer popularity.” There were two causes: “high achievement pressures and literal and emotional isolation from adults due to demanding parental careers and multiple after-school activities.” Stress is hardly a malady of the wealthy. This is obviously a particular kind of pressure which can result from having too many resources, choices and expectations. Nagasu’s all-or-nothing approach to achievement is likely the work of what psychologist Carol Dweck calls a “fixed mindset,” an approach to life in which you believe your traits are set in stone, and failure means you’re not talented or smart. For these individuals, “one test – or one evaluation – can measure you forever.” People with a fixed mindset are terrible at estimating their abilities because for them, they are either amazing or terrible – all-or nothing. Source Effects in Purchase Decisions: The Impact of Physical Attractiveness and Accent of Salesperson Article Abstract: The categorization theory is used to confirm the theory that physical attractiveness and accent of a salesperson influence purchase intentions of a potential buyer. Physical attractiveness is generally perceived as connoting competence and integrity. A standard English accent is largely preferred over a foreign-accented English. However, the study is geographically limited and does not extend to other products and services to establish a global precedent. Author: Kaynak, Erdener, Kara, Ali, DeShields, Oscar W., Jr. Publisher: Elsevier B.V. Publication Name: International Journal of Research in Marketing Subject: Business, international ISSN: 0167-8116 Year: 1996.

Celebrities, in Current Times

Celebrities in acting, sports, music, and, nowadays, stardom through reality television, increasingly transcend her/his home country. A combination of traditional media and modern social media fuel this dynamic of increasing rise of international celebrities, due in large part to the massive scope and scale of the media industries that enable celebrities to be viewed more often and in more places. Media regardless of type has made celebrity appearance as a stereotype of aspirational lifestyle held by society. This fact of modern life pressures actors and models feel of both sexes, but much more so for females, to go to extreme measures for the perfect body and perfect face to meet the high expectations that are placed by people and the media. This often requires them to starve themselves and even reconstruct areas of their body that aren’t deemed perfect. All of this can lead to eating disorders and drug habits, which are detrimental to their health and can be deadly. People who idolize them and their lifestyle find a justification in ‘if they can do it, then it is also right for me’. People tend to copy both the physical and non-physical attributes of celebrities to enhance their physical attractiveness. Generally the word celebrity is associated with the celebrated. However, celebrities can be defamed too. Some celebrities can be restored to fame. Some celebrities can even become infamous. But never before have we witnessed the adage “there’s nothing called bad publicity” becoming true on so many occasions, as we do today. Consider people like Richard and Mayumi Heene, the parents of the “balloon boy” who captured headlines at one time, or Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who brazened their way into President Obama’s first state dinner. With such occurrences in our modern celebrity-attention world lives the sarcasm in the ‘adage’ that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Tiger Woods, whose extra ordinary talent on the golf course was first overshadowed by a rash of tabloid reports of infidelities and then by his announcement that he would “take an indefinite break from professional golf” and “focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.” in December 2010- only to return to the media gaze in mid March, 2010 for returning to the golf course. Generally speaking, a celebrity is someone who gets media attention and most frequently has an extroverted personality. There are a wide range of ways by which people can become celebrities, from their profession, appearances in the mass media, beauty or even by complete accident or infamy. Celebrities may be resented for their accolades, and the public may have a love/hate relationship with celebrities. Due to the high visibility of celebrities’ private lives, their successes and shortcomings are often made very public. Celebrities are alternately portrayed as glowing examples of perfection, when they garner awards, or as decadent or immoral if they become associated with a scandal. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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One thought on “Physical Attractiveness Phenomenon (PAP)

  1. gordon Post author


    Thank you for your “broken links”/”not found” message that you sent me above. I much appreciate knowing this sometimes too-frequent situation with the Internet or rather with the people who do not maintain their respective links.

    Best wishes and thank you again.



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