I’ve just read an absolutely fascinating article in The Economist which you can find here: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21589845-what-makes-beautiful-visage-and-why-may-have-been-discovered-accidentally It covers the work of Dr Elia, a biological anthropologist at Cambridge who has studied a Russian experiment on foxes that started in 1959. In summary, the data from the Russian experiment seems to suggest that breeding for behavioural traits in foxes changes their appearance with certain facial characteristics becoming an indicator of personality types. That’s interesting in itself but the article also mentions data from humans which I found absolutely fascinating.
“At least 15 studies have shown that mothers treat attractive children more favourably than unattractive ones, even though they say they don’t and may actually believe that. At least one of these studies showed this bias is true from birth.”
That may sound shocking but it is not surprising. It makes sense for mothers to put more effort into their more promising off spring, even if it’s not something we’re comfortable admitting. There’s mention of other data in the article too around the frequency in which attractive children are secured in shopping trolleys against less attractive children and also a disturbing one around abuse. It seems having a certain facial structure correlates with levels of abuse. There’s a couple of things this brought to mind. The first is that this all suggests that you can indeed judge a book by it’s cover and I think we all do this already when somebody makes their ‘first impression’, the second is that regardless of what some wishy washy people might like to pretend to themselves, it is innate to prefer beautiful people over less beautiful people with all of the implications that this may bring. This also made me think of Chris Dillow’s post on equality for ugly people, what can be more discriminating than a mother preferring one child to the other? You can read Chris’s post here http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2013/10/inequality-the-ugly-truth.html