In aesthetics, beauty is a positive quality that makes objects and works of art pleasing to perceive. Along with truth and goodness, it is one of the three transcendentals, or fundamental concepts of human understanding.
Aesthetic qualities are a vital part of what distinguishes objects and people from ugliness, which is the opposite. They include symmetry, proportion and clarity. The term is often used to describe the visual appeal of landscapes, sunsets and humans as well as works of art and literature.
The concept of beauty has changed and developed over time, and varies widely from culture to culture. However, some key features have remained consistent across cultures and over time.
Attractiveness is a socially valued trait, and research shows that it has a number of benefits in the context of romantic relationships and dating. For example, attractive men and women are more likely to fair better in dating; they also tend to be stronger-bonded with platonic partners. They are also less likely to be incarcerated for crimes and to pay lower bail than less attractive people.
This is the result of evolutionary pressures for reproductive success that have influenced the way in which people perceive beauty and the strategies they use to achieve it. There are many factors that affect our perception of beauty, including age and health, body proportions and symmetry, facial color and texture, and facial expressions.
Behavioral research suggests that humans are attracted to certain elements of the human face, and that our brains have specific areas that use selective attention to perceive these features in other people. These regions are used to judge the beauty of human faces in both nude and posed models as well as stick figures and silhouettes.
Researchers have shown that the extrastriate body area in the temporal lobes, which is specialized for body representations, and the fusiform body area of the brain, which is specialized for facial symmetry, are activated when people are looking at photographs or drawings of human faces. These brain areas are especially active when we are looking at portraits of people.
The brain uses these regions in a variety of ways, including for identification and interpretation of facial attractiveness, as well as for valuing. These processes are under strain in a highly competitive world, so it is not surprising that people try to appear attractive by using tricks such as coloring their hair and wearing clothing styles that are difficult to fake.
This strategy may be advantageous in a highly competitive society because it makes it more difficult for others to deceive us. It is also helpful to a person’s self-image, as it reflects their true value and helps them to avoid being seen as less than desirable.