By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

Dr. Sage de Beixedon Breslin, my coauthor of the course on beauty wrote: Most of us are old enough to remember Beverly Hills 90210 with high school co-eds engaging in every day drama, each and every one looking like a star while doing so. I went to the real life version of that high school, and the script seemed to mirror my experience week after week. The parents of my peers were movie moguls and directors, producers, writers and celebrities. A significant portion of time and money was invested in maintaining the beautiful facade, through starvation diets, colon cleanses, weekly massages and strenuous physical regimes.

I came from European farmers. I can work hard, am very intelligent and am pleasant to look at. My parents put every dime they had to move us out of the rough neighborhood and into the “right” life. I scholarshipped my way into school and wore hand-me-down uniforms. Fitting in with the beautiful people wasn’t an option. Decades later I still work hard, think clearly and am still pleasant to look at. Some even think me beautiful. But when I look back, I now realize that the beauty I saw in myself, even then, was far more accurate than the beauty sought after by my peers.



  • Throughout time there have been many conceptualizations of beauty. From each different field of study and from every different culture and perspective, beauty can be given unique description and definition. In our new course on Beauty, theories of beauty are reviewed and the impacts of these culturally-held perceptions are identified. Pathological pursuits and consequences of beauty are addressed as well.
  • So you think beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Think again. According to new research from the University of Exeter in Great Britain, the preference for pretty faces over ugly ones is embedded in our brains from the moment of birth and possibly prior to birth. This research and other studies suggest evidence for evolutionary design in how we perceive beauty.
  • Similarly, research has also shown that good-looking boys and girls have a much bigger advantage in life than previously realized, the reason given is because we are all genetically programmed to love a pretty face. Scientific tests with new-born babies have revealed that they have an instinctive fascination for men and women who look like Hollywood film stars – and an in-built prejudice against more “ordinary”-looking adults. Research has shown that if you have attractive individuals, people judge them to be more honest, trustworthy and better in terms of time-keeping — any positive attributes are more likely to be associated with such attractive individuals. There’s no doubt that attractive people tend to do better in life than less-attractive people. Apparently, nobody ever said evolution was supposed to be fair.
  • Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, notes, “The American Anorexia and Bulimia Association states that anorexia and bulimia strike a million American women every year… Each year 150,000 American women die of anorexia.” It is estimated that one woman student in five is anorexic. Cosmetic surgeons are having a field day with women seeking out the knife for every conceivable flaw. The Beauty Myth preaches that normal, round, healthy women’s bodies are too fat; that cushy, soft women’s flesh is really cellulite; that women with small breasts aren’t sexy; that women lacking the “perfect” face aren’t attractive; that a woman over 30, who shows signs of life on her face, is ugly.”
  • “When women evaluate their physical attractiveness, they compare themselves with an idealized standard of beauty, such as a fashion model,” says Richard Robins, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. “In contrast, when both men and women evaluate their intelligence, they do not compare themselves to Einstein, but rather to a more mundane standard.”
  • Women who undergo breast enhancement surgery may be more likely to commit suicide than those who don’t, according to a study published in British Medical Journal.
  • A survey of female undergraduate students found that about 15 percent of the women met criteria for signs of anorexia or bulimia, body dissatisfaction, a drive for thinness, perfectionism and a sense of personal ineffectiveness.
  • Research has shown that magazine reading and television viewing, especially exposure to thinness-depicting and thinness-promoting media, significantly predict symptoms of women’s eating disorders.
  • Women who frequently read fitness magazines, for reasons other than interest in fitness and dieting, display greater signs of disordered eating than women who rarely read them at all. Further, reading fashion magazines in particular is significantly related to a woman’s drive for thinness and her dissatisfaction with her body, although magazine reading, in general, has little effect on body dissatisfaction.
  • Harrison says that the relationship between mass media consumption and symptoms of women’s eating disorders appears to be stronger for magazine reading than for television viewing. However, watching “thin” shows is a consistent predictor of a woman’s drive for thinness and viewing “heavy” shows is significantly related to body dissatisfaction.
  • Research indicates that lesbian and heterosexual women view their bodies very differently. The reason is that lesbian women studied emphasized the importance of being a ‘whole’ person, balancing a healthy body with healthy personality.

 A Few Quotes:

  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye. Miss Piggy.
  • People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.
  • The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller


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