From early childhood we are pointed to the fact that only our inner values count. To judge people by their appearance and physiognomy is regarded a superficial. This article is about these superficialities and, nevertheless, how they control our everyday lives.
There is no discussion that it is necessary to look at the character and behavior of a person but in a biological context our outer appearance plays also a certain role. When we look into the past – not our personal past but past life of our ancestors – we face a life of competition and struggle for resources. Also nowadays our lives are dominated by a competition about jobs and mates.
Even our ancestors learned very fast that cooperation and altruism manipulate others and help to reach their aims. That’s why our ancestors learned to look at so called honest signals which cannot be manipulated that easy back then.
The outer signals we learned to interpret thousands of years ago are associated with health, physical condition, perseverance and reproductive success. In females youth and beauty still play the biggest role while in males strength and physical health are the gist. Within seconds we make a decision whether a person awakens our interest and is worth a closer look within a flirt situation, in court or at a job interview. Clear skin, thick hair or facial symmetry are the first features that attract attention but also body attitude and the whole affected behavior tell us a lot about a person that feels unobserved.
If the first impression is caught once it influences the interpretation of every further information about the flirt-mate or prospect employee.
As we all already know about these desirable attributes we have come in the area of the manipulation possibilities. A huge number of cosmetics, accessories (belts or shoulder pads) and cuts of clothes support us with this manipulation. Attractive rated persons were treated or examined milder and get better jobs.
That is definitely not fair in a greater context and makes it harder for people to reach their objectives. We can play this game and follow the rules to boost our attractiveness or we consciously decide against it and take the stony path. We can also train our perception and try to expose the fraud of today’s beauty but we all have to admit that we give the clean-limbed guy more credit than the slender and pale one.
A number of patterns descend from the hunter-gatherer society have to be adapted to our modern society but our neural system still responds to these old charms. Furthermore as long as health and competitiveness are still transported by the same signals our reactions won’t change.
What still remains to us to keep the general view and not to be deceived from attractiveness, is detailed observation of body language and behavior. We can work on reading someone’s face because to show oneself at “one’s best” can work for an application photo and interview or maybe a night out but not very much longer.