Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-nr4z6 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-23T12:21:38.182Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Darwinian aesthetics: sexual selection and the biology of beauty

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 July 2003

Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology, Althanstrasse 14, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.
Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology, Althanstrasse 14, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.
Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Laboratoire de Parasitologie Evolutive, CNRS UMR 7103, Bâtiment A, 7ème étage, 7 quai St. Bernard, Case 237, FR-75252 Paris Cedex 05, France.
University of New Mexico, Castetter Hall, Department of Biology, Albuquerque, NM 87131-1091, USA.
Get access


Current theoretical and empirical findings suggest that mate preferences are mainly cued on visual, vocal and chemical cues that reveal health including developmental health. Beautiful and irresistible features have evolved numerous times in plants and animals due to sexual selection, and such preferences and beauty standards provide evidence for the claim that human beauty and obsession with bodily beauty are mirrored in analogous traits and tendencies throughout the plant and animal kingdoms. Human beauty standards reflect our evolutionary distant and recent past and emphasize the role of health assessment in mate choice as reflected by analyses of the attractiveness of visual characters of the face and the body, but also of vocal and olfactory signals. Although beauty standards may vary between cultures and between times, we show in this review that the underlying selection pressures, which shaped the standards, are the same. Moreover we show that it is not the content of the standards that show evidence of convergence – it is the rules or how we construct beauty ideals that have universalities across cultures. These findings have implications for medical, social and biological sciences.

Review Article
© Cambridge Philosophical Society 2003

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)