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Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beautyby Nancy Etcoff
Synopses & Reviews
Beauty is not a myth. According to scientist and psychologist Nancy Etcoff, the pursuit of beauty is neither a cultural construction, an invention of Madison Avenue, nor a backlash againstfeminism.
Survival of the Prettiest, the first in-depth scientific inquiry into the nature of human beauty, posits that beauty is an essential and ineradicable part of human nature, from what makes a face beautiful to the deepest questions about the human condition. Every human civilization has revered beauty, pursued it at enormous costs, and endured both the tragic and the comicconsequences of that pursuit.
Provocative, witty, and insightful, Etcoff sheds light on every aspect of human beauty, including why we devour fashion magazines, check our waistlines, and gaze longingly at objects of desire. Informed by state-of-the-art theories of the human mind from cognitive science and evolutionary biology, Survival of the Prettiest tells us whygentlemen prefer blondes, why high heels have never gone out of style, why eyebrows are plucked and hair is coiffed. Etcoff also explains how sexual preference is guided by ancient rules that make usmost attracted to those with whom we are most likely to reproduce. Research on why we find infant features irresistibly attractive, as well as controversial new work that suggests parents show moreaffection to attractive newborns, is part of a broad investigation that includes insights into how beauty influences our perceptions, attitudes, and behavior toward others.
When the attainment of beautyis viewed in the context of a Darwinian struggle for survival, many of the most extreme practices surrounding our looks, such as body piercing and serial plastic surgeries, suddenly seem lessoutlandish. In fact, those very practices may ensure the survival of our genes. Agree or disagree, you will never think about human beauty the same wayagain.
From the Hardcover edition.
Appealing to cognitive science and Darwinian theory, a professor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School challenges the radical feminist view that feminine beauty is a harmful myth perpetuated by male chauvinists and Madison Avenue. Reprint. 17,500 first printing.
In this provocative, witty, and thoroughly researched inquiry into what we find beautiful and why, Nancy Etcoff skewers one of our culture's most enduring myths, that the pursuit of beauty is a learned behavior. Etcoff, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, skewers the enduring myth that the pursuit of beauty is a learned behavior.
Etcoff puts forth that beauty is neither a cultural construction, an invention of the fashion industry, nor a backlash against feminism, but instead is in our biology. It's an essential and ineradicable part of human nature that is revered and ferociously pursued in nearly every civilizatoin--and for good reason. Those features to which we are most attracted are often signals of fertility and fecundity. When seen in the context of a Darwinian struggle for survival, our sometimes extreme attempts to attain beauty--both to become beautiful ourselves and to acquire an attractive partner--become understandable. Moreover, if we come to understand how the desire for beauty is innate, then we can begin to work in our interests, and not soley for the interests of our genetic tendencies.
Table of Contents
Introduction: the nature of beauty — Beauty as bait — Pretty pleases — Cover me — Feature presentation — Size matters — Fashion runaway — Conclusion.
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