Scientists have been trying to answer this question for some time. Some social scientists argue that beauty is socially constructed (Byars, 2015). However, beyond what the media sells as beautiful, there are biological underpinnings to what attract woman and men.
Although the media portrays woman that are unreasonably skinny as beautiful, Oda (2015), found that symmetry, is more important than size, when it comes to attractiveness. To test this the researchers used photo shop on woman of different body types to change the symmetry of their face. They asked both woman and men what they thought of the pictures of woman in the study. The participants commented that the faces that were not symmetric were found to be unattractive. The opposite was also true and the sizes of the woman were not as much of a predictor of beauty, when compared to symmetry.
For some time pheromones have been sought after to create a love potion. Some studies have found that pheromones levels can effect how woman behave while ovulating (Martin, 2015). What was interesting was that the woman in some studies found masculine looking men (broad shoulders, facial hair, muscular) more attractive when ovulating. However, when not ovulating, men that had more feminine features (less muscle mass, no facial hair) were reported to be suitable partners (Pillsworht & Haselton, 2006). When asked, the woman reported that the feminine men seemed more sensitive and more likely to stay in a long-term relationship. In contrast the masculine looking men were reported be most likely to cheat and be unfaithful.
These studies go to show that although the media plays a role in socially constructing beauty, biology can override this at anytime.
Social Gelo with Angelo
Angelo Ferrer (M.S. Psychology)
Oda, M. (2015, October). Effects of Eye Size and Symmetry on Evaluating Appearances of Faces. In Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (SMC), 2015 IEEE International Conference on (pp. 1493-1498). IEEE.
Martín-Sánchez, A., McLean, L., Beynon, R. J., Hurst, J. L., Ayala, G., Lanuza, E., & Martínez-Garcia, F. (2015). From sexual attraction to maternal aggression: when pheromones change their behavioural significance. Hormones and behavior, 68, 65-76.
Byars, J. (2015). Big Differences on the Small Screen: Race, Class, Gender, Feminine Beauty. Women Making Meaning: New Feminist Directions in Communication, 10, 191.
Pillsworth, E. G., & Haselton, M. G. (2006). Male sexual attractiveness predicts differential ovulatory shifts in female extra-pair attraction and male mate retention. Evolution and human behavior, 27(4), 247-258.