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Does Being Attractive Matter?

April 18th, 2011

Everyone can point to someone that is confident and successful despite or perhaps unrelated to his or her looks.  However, for those wanting to stay competitive in a youthful industry, like Hollywood, success appears to be firmly linked with physical appearance.  How about for the rest of us?

Many of my patients describe concerns about specific facial features as,  â€œseeming out of sync,” but they are not quite able to pinpoint why.  It is generally accepted that facial symmetry correlates to attractiveness, as do perceptions of youth and health.   The rationale behind symmetry preference in both humans and animals is that symmetric individuals rate a higher mate-value.  Scientists believe that this symmetry is equated with a stronger immune system, indicating more robust genes and a better likelihood that offspring will survive.  This theory is supported by research showing that standards of attractiveness are similar across all cultures.   Does being attractive still really matter today?

Gordon Patzer tackles the question.  He is a former Dean at Roosevelt University in Chicago  and well-known researcher in the study of cultural bias based on physical appearance.  Patzer calls his theory the Physical Attractiveness Phenomenon or “lookism.”   Lookism is basically the behavior of treating people differently based solely on their level of physical attractiveness.  Lookism can create an unfair advantage, often with a negative affect for those being judged harshly.  As a plastic surgeon, I see the issue from both sides.  When patients describe concerns about specific facial features seeming out of sync, asymmetry is often the cause, but sometimes patients are just bothered by changes due to aging.   General attractiveness concerns that top this list include crooked noses, droopy jowls and baggy eyes.

Part 2 continued tomorrow.

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