Physical attraction | Individuals and Society | MCAT | Khan Academy

Physical attraction | Individuals and Society | MCAT | Khan Academy


– [Voiceover] When trying to
figure out what attracts us to other people, an obvious thing to think about is physical attraction. But what is it? What do we mean when we say that someone is physically attractive? And relatedly, are the same
things attractive to all people? Well, it turns out that there are cultural and historical differences in terms of what is found to be attractive. There are some things
that are considered to be universally attractive. Things like youthfulness and skin clarity, and skin smoothness,
and also body symmetry are considered to be attractive across ethnic and racial backgrounds. But there are also a number of traits that are considered to
be universally attractive for just men or for just women. For women, things like full breasts and a low waist-hip ratio
are always considered to be attractive. For men, having a muscular
chest and a v-shaped torso, so having really broad
shoulders and a narrow waist, is also considered to be attractive. One really interesting
thing that we’ve learned from attractiveness
research though is that facial attraction is more
important than body attraction. And when we look at male and female faces, we can also see a number of
universally attractive traits. For women, things like a high forehead, small chin and nose, high cheekbones, and full lips are
considered to be attractive. For men, prominent
facial features are found to be the most attractive. So things like having a strong
chin and jaw and cheekbones, but also having a long lower face. And it turns out that women
are typically attracted to men with these strong
masculine characteristics. And men are typically attracted to women with strong female characteristics. Another way to say this would be that both males and females
tend to be attracted to high levels of sexual dimorphism, or the degree of difference between male and female and anatomical traits. Another thing that is thought to be universally
attractive is averageness. And for me, this kind of goes against the assumption that I
had that unique traits would be considered to
be the most attractive. But it turns out that that’s incorrect, and I think that is
beautifully illustrated in these figures that were
created by Judy Langlois. And one thing that she
studies is attractiveness as it relates to averageness. And the way that she
does this is by studying what she refers to as “face morphs.” So what you’re seeing
here in this top figure are pictures of Caucasian female faces that have been digitized
and then averaged. So in this figure two separate
Caucasian female faces have been overlayed and their
features morphed together. This one includes 4 Faces, 8 Faces, 16 Faces and 32 Faces. And I want you to take a moment yourself to look at these five images and to pick out which one you consider to be most attractive. It turns out that most respondents
pick the 32 Face Average as being the most attractive in the set. And this seems to imply that
the closer someone’s face is to the average face, the more attractive we
would perceive them to be. And at this point, you might be thinking, “No, I don’t think that that’s true “because what the average face looks like “is completely dependent on
which faces you average.” And in response to that,
I have this bottom figure. And what you’re seeing here
is the result of the same face morphing technology that
we saw in the top figure. In this case, 32 faces have been averaged to create one single image. But the 32 faces that
were averaged in this face are completely different than the 32 faces that went into this face. So each of these fives
faces include the faces of 32 individual women with no overlap. And one thing that you
might notice right away is that they are all incredibly similar. And if you stare at them for a little bit, if you really concentrate on them, the differences between
them will start popping out. But overall, these faces are incredibly similar to each other. And so when we say that
the closer a woman’s face is to the average or prototypical face, the more attractive they are, there does actually seem to
be a fairly stable prototype that we’re comparing these faces to. But even while things
like facial averageness and facial symmetry are considered to be universally attractive, what we consider to be attractive can also be influenced by the weirdest things. In one study on attractiveness, researchers took a photo of a woman and either gave that
photo a white background or a red background. Researchers would then show an individual simply one of these photos, and then ask them to rate how attractive they thought they were. And once again, take a moment to think about this yourself. Cover up one of the photos
with your hands and rate it, and then cover up the
other one and rate it. And obviously, you already
know that there might be a difference here
because I’m presenting it to you in this video. But just sort of take a
moment to look at it yourself and see if your judgements
of this woman are the same. Because oddly enough, the
woman on the red background was deemed to be more attractive
and more sexually desirable than the woman on the white background, despite the fact that it was the same woman on both photographs. We also know that
attractiveness can be mediated by unrelated physiological arousal. And what do I mean by that? Well, imagine a study in
which a researcher shows an individual a picture and asks them to rate
the woman in the picture. And maybe they rate them, I don’t know, a seven out of ten. And then they approach another person and ask them the same question. But this person, instead of having just walked down the street, has actually just walked across a long and very narrow bridge. And remember this new individual
is being shown the exact same photograph that the
other individual was shown. How attractive do you think
he will think this woman is? Do you think it’s going to be the same as the person walking down the street? Do you think it’s going
to be less attractive or do you think it’s going
to be more attractive? Well, it turns out that the individuals who just walked across the narrow bridge rated that individual to be significantly more attractive than the people who are just walking down the street. And why do you think that is? Well, it turns out that walking across a narrow bridge over a high height increases sympathetic arousal. And you may have felt this yourself if you’ve ever stood on a high height and looked over the edge. And your heart starts to beat fast, and your hands start to sweat, which, as it turns out,
is exactly the same thing as what happens when
you’re in the presence of someone who you’re really attracted to. So our guy, he steps off the bridge, his heart is beating fast, and then he’s shown this picture
of this attractive woman. And on some unconscious level, he winds up misattributing
that fast heartbeat to the attractive woman. Because, as it turns out,
we can be really terrible at identifying the source
of physiological arousal. And so, because his heart is beating fast while looking at this picture of a woman, our individual’s brain has
taken that physiological and visual feedback, and
matched them together. Which leaves our individual
to come to the conclusion that this woman is incredibly attractive. And that’s why if you want someone to feel attracted to you, it might be a good idea to take them on a date to an amusement park.

16 thoughts on “Physical attraction | Individuals and Society | MCAT | Khan Academy

  1. So science is involved in physical attraction? You learn everyday lol…whoever wants to see more medical videos is invited to my channel 🙂 Cheers!

  2. I personally feel indifferent to everything presented, like the 32 face wasn't much different to the 8 in my opinion….personal preference bias? 

  3. haha. I'm the exception to every generalization in this video. This reminds me of how the germans during ww2 tried to profile how germans are physically superior to other races using hair color, face structure, etc as "evidence". IT'S ALL OPINION. There are people attracted to other ANIMALS without even remotely human face structure: ex. horses like bronies, powerpuff girls (C'mon…..ppl). The average has nothing to do with anything. Also, the huge diversity of fetishes on every factor at every extremes just shows the huge diversity of attraction. The huge diversity of attraction contradicts the definition of average. And so attraction is cultural but also rather random. 
    So, that makes me culturally unequilibriated (not a word I think) and random.

    Also. No offense to anyone in the video but they are NOT at all attractive to me. I HATE the high cheek bone structure. ex: Angelina Jolie looks like a frickin skeleton. Contrary to the point in the video, that I do not find that appearance attractive AT ALL. However, I have seen many who are attracted, ex: naturalistic observation at frat parties. 

  4. nice too see physical atraction broken down into almost exclusivley heteronormitive terms which, not like gay people exsist(might complicate your model)

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