The Biology of Beauty

The Science behind Human Attractiveness

by Rachelle M. Smith


Despite our culture's preoccupation with weight, studies show that body shape is a more universal predictor of attractiveness than is body mass index for both men and women.

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Cover image for The Biology of Beauty

June 2018


Pages 264
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Health & Wellness/General

This thought-provoking book examines the science behind human attractiveness—the ratios, proportions, and other factors that to a large extent dictate what we find "beautiful."

It's said that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," but recent scientific research suggests that human attractiveness is much more objective than we once thought, deeply rooted in our biology and evolutionary history. For instance, facial symmetry is considered extremely attractive because it indicates good health and nutrition during the formative developmental years. This book explores these insights.

Part I of The Biology of Beauty: The Science behind Human Attractiveness takes a closer look at what traits we find the most alluring and why. It discusses why attractiveness is important from an evolutionary standpoint and the advantages (and disadvantages) of being attractive. In addition to exploring these beauty "universals," it examines how beauty ideals can be shaped by factors such as culture, religion, and the media. Part II provides an in-depth analysis of individual features that contribute to attractiveness, offering scientific explanations for our preferences. The book also includes a collection of insightful sidebars that highlight beauty ideals in different parts of the world and at other times in history.


  • Explores the high-interest and often controversial subject of beauty objectively, drawing on numerous scientific and psychological studies
  • Demonstrates both the universal and variable aspects of beauty, helping readers to understand how ideals change over time and from culture to culture
  • Examines the physical and psychological effects of living in a highly beauty-conscious society and highlights the impact of media on cultural ideals
  • Features a unique two-part organization that offers readers a broad conceptual framework followed by a detailed analysis of particular features that contribute to attractiveness
Author Info

Rachelle M. Smith, PhD, earned her doctoral degree in psychology at the University of Maine, Orono, in 2009. She is an Aassociate pProfessor of pPsychology and cthe Chair of sSocial sSciences at Husson University. Dr. Smith teaches a variety of psychology courses and specializes in evolution and development. Her published works include journal articles and book chapters in the areas of mate choice and reproductive strategies, tactical deception, and social intelligence. Dr. Smith received the Owen Aldis Research Award and is a member of the International Society for Human Ethology.

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