But what really motivates us to spend time trying to appear more physically attractive? From an evolutionary perspective, this may be part of mating behavior, as looking good indicates good health and good genetics, maximizing the chances of having healthy offspring; Therefore, physical appearance is one of the major criteria in selecting a partner. From this perspective, it is believed that women are more interested in enhancing their physical attractiveness than men, and that young unmarried women are believed to be particularly concerned with their appearance.
There are a few other theories that explain people’s preoccupation with physical attractiveness. One of them, the pathogen diffusion theory, suggests that people in countries with a high prevalence of dangerous infections such as leishmaniasis, trypanosomiasis, malaria, and leprosy are likely to take longer to improve their appearance, especially visual defects. To hide what may be perceived as a symptom of the disease. Socio-cultural characteristics, such as gender inequality or individualistic versus collectivist attitudes, and the influence of mass media or social media use can also influence the amount of time people spend in their presence.
An international team of scientists, including HSE researchers, tested a range of these theories to determine the factors that have the greatest influence on grooming behaviour. The authors surveyed more than 93,000 people in 93 countries about how much time they spent each day increasing their physical appearance. To date, it is the largest study conducted in evolutionary psychology.
“We were able to collect data on almost 100,000 people in a very large sample in terms of age, education and income level, including many participants from non-industrialized countries for whom we had no previous data” Dmitri Dubrov , study co-author, research fellow at the HSE Center for Sociocultural Research.
Do looks matter in a relationship?
According to the evolutionary hypothesis, people want to look good to improve their chances of finding a suitable mate. The survey found that both men and women spend an average of about four hours a day on behaviors designed to enhance their physical attractiveness. In addition to applying makeup, grooming one’s hair, and selecting clothing, such behavior includes caring for body hygiene, exercising for the purpose of improving one’s appearance, or following a specific diet (eg. , as opposed to caring for one’s health).
It has also been found that older people spend the same amount of time as younger people on increasing their attractiveness. People in early romantic relationships spend more time enhancing their presence Compared to people who are married or have been dating for a while.
The pathogen dissemination hypothesis was only partially confirmed: individuals with a history of severe pathogenic diseases were more likely to spend more time enhancing their appearance, for example by applying make-up to hide signs of disease, but not for beauty and No correlation was found between one’s investment in life. In a country where few pathogens occur. The reason may be better healthcare, even in poorer countries that have struggled with serious infections in the past.
As expected, women from countries with pronounced gender inequality put more time and effort into beauty enhancement than women from countries with advanced gender equality. The same is true of countries and cultures with traditional attitudes towards gender roles.
Individualistic cultures that value individual achievements over collective achievements also emphasize the importance of enhancing one’s physical attractiveness.
Is social media to be blamed for the rise in the beauty enhancement trend?
Social media use appears to be the strongest predictor of attractiveness-enhancing behaviors. Active social media users – in particular, those who strive for unrealistic beauty standards and become anxious when their photos get few likes – were found to spend more time improving their appearance than those who did not. There are people who spend little or no time on social networks.
“In this paper, we tested five existing theories that shed light on people’s attractiveness-enhancing behaviors. These theories are complementary rather than mutually exclusive. We confirmed some assumptions and found some interesting and less expected results.” This study is an important step forward in evolutionary and socio-cultural research that will allow a better understanding of human psychology and our attitudes towards beauty”, Dmitry Dubrov, study co-author, Research Fellow at the HSE Center for Sociocultural Research .Life Style