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    The Science Of Pleasure: Part One- The Allure Of Asymmetry
    By Andrea Kuszewski | July 30th 2010 03:44 AM | 51 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Andrea

    Andrea is a Behavior Therapist and Consultant for children on the autism spectrum, residing in the state of FL; her background is in cognitive

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    What happens in your brain when you experience pleasure? Why are fantasies so powerful? Why do our brains love dopamine so much? Why do some images arouse, while others turn us off? Why are the most attractive people often not the ones we are most drawn to sexually? How can you create the longest neurological orgasm possible?

    For the next several weeks, I will be writing a series of articles centered around the topic, The Science of Pleasure. Because there is soooo much good information on the science of how and why we derive pleasure from certain things, I felt this should be a series of articles, rather than trim it down to one post. Sound exciting? Well, it IS.

    This first article will explore the concept of symmetry and attractiveness. Research has suggested that we are drawn to and consider symmetrical faces more attractive. I am not disputing the fact that symmetrical faces are considered or rated as more attractive. I just don't think we always prefer them. Instead, we tend to be be sexually drawn to faces that are slightly less symmetrical. I'll explain...

    Our brains like symmetry; we find it soothing and comforting. However, we are drawn by nature to complexity (It is important to note, however, that complexity is different than chaos). Our brain likes algorithmic patterns- we interpret these automatically and without consciousness much of the time. Minimal effort is required to interpolate the visual stimuli, and since our brain likes efficiency, it gives a calming, soothing effect.

    From an evolutionary standpoint, symmetry implies fitness to reproduce. Animals and organic objects with a great deal of symmetry are generally without genetic flaws, and thus more likely to reproduce and have viable offspring. It would make sense that these are preferred for purely mating purposes.

    However, when it comes to what we are drawn to for the sake of pleasure or romance, we tend to prefer complex, interesting, not-always-perfectly-symmetrical patterns. Several studies have been done on facial symmetry (here's a summary)- babies prefer looking at symmetrical faces, and adults rate symmetrical faces as more attractive. Interestingly, while we may judge symmetrical faces as more attractive, those aren't always the ones we are most drawn to sexually or romantically. How many times have you felt mesmerized by someone's looks, and you can't quite explain why? We tend to go for the people with more interesting or exotic features, slightly asymmetrical- still beautiful, but not too perfect.

    So why this phenomenon?

    We are intrigued by things that don't quite seem to fit. When we see a symmetrical, algorithmic pattern, our brain can interpret it quickly, and we feel at ease. However, if there is a non-symmetrical pattern or complex design, our brain lingers on this info to try and decipher it. This gives us a slightly uneasy feeling, yet we are drawn to it and fascinated by it at the same time. Our brain will stay focused on this information longer, to try and spot the inconsistency.

    When things don't quite fit, we are in a state of dissonance. We think we should feel one way, yet we are pulled another way biologically, which forces us to process the stimuli longer. The longer we perceive and interface with something, the more of an attachment we form with it.

    Denzel is thought to have a very symmetrical face.
    Denzel- very attractive man. No denying that.

    This may be why we can intellectually label a symmetrical face like Denzel Washington as more attractive, but be more drawn sexually to someone like Joaquin Phoenix (pre-beardedness). We visually interpret their features longer, so naturally we form a greater attachment to them, and thus find them more alluring.

    Joaquin has less symmetrical features, but is dead sexy.
    Ooooh la-la, Joaquin! Muy caliente!

    Now, it is important to notice that I said "slightly" asymmetrical features are more sexually alluring. In some of the studies I looked at, where they had digitally enhanced "symmetrical" vs "asymmetrical" faces, they went a little overboard with the asymmetry. In fact, some of the asymmetrical faces looked downright deformed. You can't cross over into 'genetically unfit' or 'chromosomal abnormality' territory and use that as a comparison to a symmetrical face when judging attractiveness. Of course a person who appears to have an eyebrow sliding down their cheek is going to be judged as less attractive. The small differences in symmetry, while still being classified as attractive, make a huge difference in appeal. If something is too perfect, it just isn't as interesting.

    Perfect symmetry is boring, from your brain's standpoint. Calming, yes. Pretty, yes. Exciting? Not so much. Asymmetry has some novelty to it. Novelty triggers dopamine and norepinephrine, which in turn motivates us, excites us, and yes- even fuels addictive behaviors in some circumstances. Is it any wonder why we feel inexplicably drawn to that mysterious stranger that just walked into the room?

    So while we may sit people down for a psychological study, show them photos, and ask them which people are more attractive, that does not necessarily mean those are the people they'd rather date or have sex with. I think someone should design a study comparing THAT. Because perfection is not always sexy. A little mystery almost always is.

    Remember this: Take comfort in the fact that while your physical appearance may not be perfect, it might actually work out to your advantage sexually and romantically.

    *Stay tuned for the next article in the Science of Pleasure series titled: Your Brain on Sex.

    Comments

    Paul Frank
    An alternative explanation occurs to me that is consistent with the broad facts.  For group data, (which I assume this is), if people on average were not completely sure of themselves, they might feel more comfortable with someone imperfect, and thus more at ease sexually and romantically.  Has there been efforts to sort this kind of thing out, or am I getting ahead of the research. 

    I guess when you say, "We visually interpret their features longer, so naturally we form a
    greater attachment to them, and thus find them more alluring" I am wondering if there is more of a basis for the time-attachment association.  It certainly does not seem to be that observation time is always associated with greater attachment.  I know from selling oriental carpets at one point in time, and hence peripherally working in the design world, that if something was not quite right and you could not figure it out, it could be quite annoying.  On the other hand, some "imperfections," (e.g., abrashes, where changes in dye lots showed up), were attractive to many, but not all.  People generally are not going to feel undeserving of a "perfect" carpet, but may well feel anxious with a perfect beauty as their mate.  (I apologize for the pop psychology, but I believe most of this could be operationalized.) 

    Any thoughts on this, or relevant research?  Thanks for addressing this topic.  As usual, your article is quite interesting.
    Research referenced in the book, "What They Know About You", stated that people tend to marry someone about as attractive as themselves. Those most unhappy with relationships, or lack thereof, tended to overrate themselves. Their expectations were too high, driving too hard a bargain for what they were worth on the open [dating] market.

    Tying in some research referenced in the book "Class", men will sometimes marry someone from a lower social strata than themselves, but they will rarely marry someone significantly less attractive than themselves. Women will sometimes marry someone less attractive than themselves but they will rarely marry someone from a lower social strata than themselves.

    Perhaps what this all boils down to is that marriage happens at the intersection of attraction and marketability. Not counting shotgun weddings and the like.

    Gerhard Adam
    So while we may sit people down for a psychological study, show them photos, and ask them which people are more attractive, that does not necessarily mean those are the people they'd rather date or have sex with.
    The problem I always have with these types of studies is that they never seem to reconcile what people think with who they are actually with.  In truth, physical attractiveness is probably the most superficial aspect of most relationships and to many, the more "perfect" a person is, the stronger the likelihood that they will be an unsuitable partner (i.e. too high maintenance).

    I'm sure almost everyone has encountered numerous attractive people that lose their attractiveness almost immediately upon speaking (or based on how they behave).  I'm curious as to how those perceptions fit into our sense of what is attractive. 

    I'm also curious as to whether our sense of attractiveness doesn't fit into our "fantasies" or imagination based on other experiences. 

    Humans seem to be unique in that what we consider "attractive" invariably involves images that are not real.  We focus on clothing, make-up, hairstyles, etc. which certainly reflect a certain cultural aspect, but ultimately has little to do with someone's actual appearance.  It's no coincidence that we've observed such extreme "make-overs" in people that gain sudden celebrity (remember Linda Tripp?).  How does this affect someone's sense of attractiveness?

    It seems to me that an interesting study would be to have people assess someone's appearance, and then have a story told about that individual and then reassess their attractiveness.  Perhaps even a short movie to see whether attractiveness varies when the individual is seen as engaging in a particular activity (or even just moving around).
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    I am also curious if this asymmetry relates to the compositional "rule of thirds" for painting and photography, since the point seems to be that symmetrical compositions lack appeal.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Yes, you are on the right track there, Gerhard. Super-clean, symmetrical compositions lack pizazz, and are basically boring to look at. You need some things slightly off-kilter in the right way, to maintain the viewer's interest.
    Fred Pauser
    Gerhard stated:
    I'm sure almost everyone has encountered numerous attractive people that lose their attractiveness almost immediately upon speaking (or based on how they behave).
    Indeed. Physical attractiveness is important, but not the most important of factors. Another reason to be attracted to asymmetrical "still beautiful, but not too perfect" individuals is, since we know our own personal flaws, a person too perfect may not be a match -- fear of rejection causing us to lose interest. But these reasons may be getting off point. Andrea appears to be addressing physical appeal aside from other factors.
    Gerhard Adam
    Andrea appears to be addressing physical appeal aside from other factors.
    I understand, but that's precisely why I raised some of these points.  Other than a photograph, it seems that having additional knowledge of the individual affects how we see them physically.  Since a photograph is ultimately an unnatural representation of our experiences, often seeing the person move or interact is much more defining.  So, my point is still, why should this additional information influence our initial assessment of their physical attractiveness.

    In particular, it suggests to me that physical attractiveness is merely an attention-getting device.  Our brain reacts, but doesn't do much beyond that. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Gerhard.... be patient, Luke. This is part ONE... more to follow!!! :)
    Gerhard Adam
    OK, I'm just a padawan O Jedi Master.
    Mundus vult decipi
    SynapticNulship
    Since my physical appearance is perfect, does that mean I'm romantically doomed?
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Oh, snap! Hahahaha... *cough* Um, yes.
    Hank
    Not necessarily, I have done pretty well - my Nobel Prize in Awesome helps too, of course.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Ah yes, Hank. I forget you have the 'perfect hair' thing going on. I must revise my hypothesis forthwith.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    In 2006 Bjorn Carey produced a short list of scientific rules for the game of love in an article entitled “The Rules of Attraction in the Game of Love” at http://www.livescience.com/health/060213_attraction_rules.html. These include the prominent feminine eyes of a supermodel, desirable hips and waist ratios of a well-built man or woman, good symmetry that shows that an individual has the genetic goods to survive development, the right smell, the right visual cues, humour, fidelity and love. Quote “Psychologist Devendra Singh of the University of Texas studied people's waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). Where fat is deposited on the body is determined by sex hormones; testosterone in men and estrogen in women. If a woman produces the proper amount and mixture of estrogen, then her WHR will naturally fall into the desired range. The same goes for a male's testosterone. People in the ideal hip-ratio range, regardless of weight, are less susceptible to disease such as cardiovascular disorders, cancer, and diabetes, studies have shown. Women in this range also have less difficulty conceiving. “ Quote “Research has also shown that women both smell and look more attractive to men at certain times of the month. And symmetrical men smell better to women. Borrowing sweaty undershirts from a variety of men, Thornhill offered the shirts to the noses of women, asking for their impressions of the scents. Hands down, the women found the scent of a symmetrical man to be more attractive and desirable, especially if the woman was menstruating. “ Quote “In some cases, women in Thornhill's study reported not smelling anything on a shirt, yet still said they were attracted to it. "We think the detection of these types of scent is way outside consciousness," Thornhill said.””These subconscious scents might be related to pheromones, chemical signals produced by the body to communicate reproductive quality. But the role of pheromones in the human realm remains controversial. Quote “ In 2003, Zhang showed that a gene mutated 23 million years ago among primates in Africa and Asia that are considered to be human ancestors, allowing them to see color. This let the males notice that a female's bottom turned bright red when she was ready to mate.With the development of a sexual color scheme, you don't need the pheromone sensitivity to sense whether a female monkey is ready to mate," Zhang said. "It's advantageous to use visual cues rather than pheromones because they can be seen from a distance." Quote “A woman is attracted to a man who makes her laugh, Bressler found in a 2005 study. A man likes a woman who laughs at his jokes. Somewhere amid attraction and sex, we all hope, are strong feelings of love. But which of all the motivations really drives us? “ Quote “Interestingly, brain scans in people who'd recently fallen in love reveal more activity related to love than sex. "Romantic love is one of the most powerful of all human experiences," says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University. "It is definitely more powerful than the sex drive." Quote “Despite all their differences, men and women both place high value on one trait: fidelity. Cornell University's Stephen Emlen and colleagues asked nearly 1,000 people age 18 to 24 to rank several attributes, including physical attractiveness, health, social status, ambition, and faithfulness, on a desirability scale. People who rated themselves favorably as long-term partners were more particular about the attributes of potential mates. After fidelity, the most important attributes were physical appearance, family commitment, and wealth and status. The rules of attraction in the game of love are much the the same for bonobos, except for fidelity of course.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Interesting that there's no mention of the size of boobs and genitalia in the short list of scientific rules for the game of love. Recently, I was horrified to discover that half of the young female students in one of my university ethics classes were saving up for boob jobs. All of them were beautiful, intelligent, quite curvy young women with slim athletic bodies, who for whatever reason were being made to feel inadequate in the breast department, probably by a media that constantly portrays women with artificial breasts in leading romantic roles. Occasionally, my husband Bossy Bonobo and I wake up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep for whatever reason, so sometimes we switch on the TV, which is usually showing some old movie on one of the channels. What's often quite amazing about these films is that at least half of the women in romantic lead roles, like Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Montgomery, Goldie Hawn, Joanne Woodward, Fay Dunaway etc are quite small breasted apart from the occasional Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor of course, and in those days, pre-cosmetic surgery boob enhancements, that was considered OK. It doesn't seem to be OK to be small breasted in movies now, and maybe that is the reason that young women all over the world are mutilating themselves, and also depriving themselves of one of the greatest joys in life, in my opinion, which is breast feeding their own baby. The recent film 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' showed a change in direction but then it also contained some pretty savage sexual scenes that I felt counteracted any obvious benefit.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Hank
     Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Montgomery, Goldie Hawn, Joanne Woodward, Fay Dunaway
    At least in America there would be talk shows about how those women are too thin and the oppressive male society has done it to them - they would get boob jobs to look bigger.     It is not men forcing women to have bigger boobs, it is women and a culture who consistently worry about the 5 skinny women left in the US - we're the fattest country on the planet and there are people constantly claiming they are under pressure to be thin.  It does not add up.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    I just have a naturally perfect body, so I have a hard time relating to those women who feel pressured to augment their physical selves. ;)

    Seriously, though- I've had women lecture me on 'objectivity' and stuff like that, but I tell them everything here is natural, so what you see is what you get, no need to make me feel bad about it. It is difficult for some to believe god still makes women look like... well, women.



    SynapticNulship
    It doesn't seem to be OK to be small breasted in movies now, and maybe that is the reason that young women all over the world are mutilating themselves

    I wouldn't call boob jobs "mutilation."  What's sad is people think that there is only one way to be attractive.  Because of the Web, we now live the age of the fetish--no matter how you look, somewhere out there somebody wants you (or wants to look at you), and it's not too hard to find them.  Obviously if you're at the extremes you might have trouble (like a 500 lb person) but generally it's silly to think that all member of society demand large breasted women, or small breasted women, or large assed women, etc., at some given time, etc.  And size alone is too crude a descriptor anyway--curves, shapes, sizes relative to other body parts, etc. all matter too.  And an individual can appreciate a wide variety of body types so it's not even consistent for one person, let alone a culture or the whole world. 
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    If a surgeon cut the skin on your forehead, inserted a silicon boob and then sewed everything up either under your hairline or under your eyebrows to minimise the visible scar, would you consider that mutilation? Even if you did feel mutilated you would probably find it difficult to frown!
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Fred Pauser
    Yes, Helen, I too consider "boob jobs" to be mutilation -- and a turn off! Natural of any size is preferable for this dude. It's sad that so many women apparently feel compelled to take such a drastic step.
    Gerhard Adam
    It doesn't seem to be OK to be small breasted in movies now, and maybe that is the reason that young women all over the world are mutilating themselves..
    But who is it that thinks it's not OK?   I find it troubling that you're suggesting that women are so foolish that they would "mutilate" themselves for some perception regarding how women appear in movies.  This suggests a level of immaturity that I find difficult to fathom.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    I don't buy it either but it is certainly exculpatory if that is true.  Who knew women were so easy to manipulate?  They just have to see an attractive girl on TV and they're off undergoing surgery.   I don't feel bad that Brad Pitt is prettier than me.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Quote “According to data collected by the American Society of Plastic Surgery, in 2007, 307,230 breast augmentation procedures were performed in the U.S., a 12% decrease compared to the previous year. This decrease has been associated with the financial challenges posed by a struggling economy. Despite the decrease, however, breast augmentation surgeries remained as the number one surgical cosmetic procedure performed in the U.S.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breast_implant Say that the average is 300,000 a year that’s over 3,000,000 women with breast implants in America in a decade. Three million women who are according to Gerhard quote “so foolish that they would "mutilate" themselves for some perception regarding how women appear in movies. This suggests a level of immaturity that I find difficult to fathom.” Surely you can understand that these often young women, are being made to feel inadequate by the society that they live in, via the media that indoctrinates them? Unlike you Hank, they have not already found and married an attractive person of the opposite sex. Supposedly they think that a boob job makes them more attractive to men and improves their chances of finding an attractive partner. Maybe they also feel physically inadequate and therefore less attractive in their own heads? Although I think these women are making a mistake allowing themselves to be manipulated like this, however, I also think that men are partly responsible. If they didn’t find boob jobs attractive then there would be less reason for women to mutilate themselves this way. Penis augmentation could also become a trend in future, I’m sure there are plenty of women with boob jobs who would appreciate such a trend. I wonder how many of those are done a year in the US?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Andrea Kuszewski
    I know several women who have had breast augmentation. They are not whining, crying, or sobbing that men made them do this hideous disfiguration to their bodies. They did it because they wanted to. They wanted larger breasts, or better-shaped breasts following breast-feeding their children. They were not mindless puppets being led around by the male Puppet Masters of Life. They were grown women, who decided that if there was technology that could enhance their appearance, then they wanted a part of it. Nothing psychologically wrong with that. I have not personally had that done, but I have no problem with it, either.

    Now, with that said, I'm sure there are the ones you are speaking of, who have repetitive plastic surgeries because they have low self-esteem, but I think those cases are fewer and farther between. I see much more of the wealthy 30-something women who get plastic surgery for purely vanity-related reasons.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Andrea, I also know several women who have had breast augmentation, some are models, their bodies are their careers and bigger boobs means more work for them, others have breast fed repeatedly then lost weight and lost their boobs in the process and others just felt physically unattractive or inadequate. Nobody said that they are all “whining, crying, or sobbing that men made them do this hideous disfiguration to their bodies.” I’m just questioning why so many attractive, slim, athletic young women in my university ethics class are doing it? You say that that the women you know “ did it because they wanted to. They wanted larger breasts, or better-shaped breasts following breast-feeding their children. They were not mindless puppets being led around by the male Puppet Masters of Life. They were grown women, who decided that if there was technology that could enhance their appearance, then they wanted a part of it. Nothing psychologically wrong with that.” And in those cases I tend to agree, it is their right to make an informed decision. However, how do you explain these five good-looking, young women in my university ethics class who were all saving up for boob jobs, 50% of the women in the class? Are you saying that the plastic surgery is not mutilating, not painful, not hazardous, not expensive and not a problem for perfectly healthy young women who don’t need it? Again if you look at wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breast_implant Quote “Thousands of women claim that they have become ill from their implants; complaints include neurological and rheumatological problems. Some studies have suggested that subjective and objective symptoms of women with implants may improve when their implants are removed.” Quote “Surgeries involving breast implants, whether for cosmetic or reconstructive surgery, carry risk common to many types of surgery. These include adverse reactions to anesthesia, post-operative bleeding (hematoma) or fluid collection (seroma), surgical site infection or breakdown, breast pain or alterations in sensation , unfavorable scarring (6-7%), interference with breast feeding, visible wrinkling, asymmetry, thinning of the breast tissue, and symmastia (disruption of the natural plane between breasts which is sometimes referred to as 'bread loafing'). Complications and reoperations related to surgeries with breast implants or tissue expanders can add significant long term costs to patients and health care systems.” Quote “A 2007 Swedish and US longitudinal study found that women who get cosmetic breast implants are nearly three times as likely to commit suicide as other women. No notable increase was seen in the first 10 years after surgery, but 10 to 19 years after, risk was 4.5 times higher, and six times higher after 20 years, compared with the expected suicide rate. The same study found that women with breast implants also had a tripled risk of death from alcohol and drug use. Seven studies have been made connecting breast implants to a higher rate of suicide.” Personally, I think it is a worrying trend. Many of those who do it are taking unhealthy risks and those with small or imperfect breasts are being made to feel even more inadequate. Plastic surgeons however are getting rich.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Surely you can understand that these often young women, are being made to feel inadequate by the society that they live in, via the media that indoctrinates them?
    What does that even mean?  The truth is that women make women feel inadequate.  All one has to do is look at any woman's magazine to see how the entire purpose is to demonstrate what's wrong with them.  Women need to take responsibility for themselves and their actions and stop blaming someone else for their choices.
    Supposedly they think that a boob job makes them more attractive to men and improves their chances of finding an attractive partner. Maybe they also feel physically inadequate and therefore less attractive in their own heads?
    Once again, this is women doing this to themselves.  Women supposedly resent being treated as sex objects, while they immediately do everything in their power to become sex objects.  Every time I hear some woman talk about how "hot" she is, or how someone looks "hot", I think she's a moron. 

    Like it or not, woman also have their own brain, and it's time they used it.  Women are subject to no more manipulation than anyone else in our society and it's up to them to arrive at a value system that makes sense. 
    I also think that men are partly responsible.
    If that's true, that's basically an admission that women are incapable of thinking for themselves.  Everyone has feeings of insecurity and may well have self-esteem issues, but I think that anyone that thinks a solution is at the end of a scalpel has much bigger problems to deal with.
    Say that the average is 300,000 a year that’s over 3,000,000 women with breast implants in America in a decade.
    Basically that statistic still suggests a relatively small number of women that have clearly demonstrated that when it comes to their full development as people, they think that breasts are certainly more important than brains.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Gerhard, you say that “The truth is that women make women feel inadequate. All one has to do is look at any woman's magazine to see how the entire purpose is to demonstrate what's wrong with them." I think that it would be equally enlightening to look at men’s magazines, to see how their entire purpose is to demonstrate what men think is right about women’s bodies, which is often abnormally large boobs on slim bodies. I can’t believe that all of those women on the covers of mens magazines are freaks of nature, sorry I mean naturally well-endowed, many probably have had boob jobs. Maybe every picture of a woman with a boob job in a mens magazine should by law have a health warning stamped across it, something like “Warning, boob implants are bad for your health, your self-image and your life's expectations”.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Fred Phillips
    Coincidentally I had occasion to mention my old friend Dev Singh in this recent SB column. He and the (at least) three psychologists in the Buss family at Texas have been researching these matters for decades now.

    I agree that multidimensional cues would make better research. A woman with great visual appeal will attract my attention, but if she lights a cigarette or says something in a godawful screechy voice, she does not thereafter look attractive to me. That may say more about me than about her, but hey, it takes two to tango.

    p.s. Before the dance was analyzed by industrial efficiency experts like me, it used to take seven to tango.
    ;-)
    Andrea Kuszewski
    I am a 36D, slender/athletic in build, and completely natural. Am I a 'freak of nature'?
    No, just lucky and well-endowed, so why are you lurking in the shadows holding a scalpel?

    Hank
    You see all that subtext in that little picture?  I assumed it was a pen and she was at her desk or something.  Clearly I need to find the deeper meaning in avatars.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Scalpel? Eh? It is a mechanical pencil, and I am not lurking... I am working! Reading!

    (Hey, Hank- maybe we need to increase the size of the avatars for those with impaired vision.)
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    No, I wouldn't call slim and 36D a freak of nature, that's pretty average. You obviously haven't seen the mens magazines I'm talking about. The very well-endowed models look like they weigh about 45 kilos and are a bra size 36FF, I apologise for calling them 'freaks of nature', I was out of order, I meant to say that they were well endowed and not the average female build.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Once again though, the point is that why are women so insecure as to care what men see in their magazines?  Women also buy the magazines that feature all manner of good-looking men, but you don't see men pining over why they don't look like Brad Pitt, or the Jonah's Brothers.

    However, it is equally telling when one compares what men look at, versus who they are actually partnered with.  That should be a bit of a reality check.  In addition, you will never see a men's magazine with articles about "how to marry a super-model" or some other such nonsense.   It's interesting that men's magazines are taken so more seriously by women than by the men that purchase them.

    The unfortunate truth is that too many women are superficial and think that their value derives solely from their appearance.  Until they overcome that hurdle, you can blame whoever you like, but in the end, the problem is that they aren't comfortable in their own skin and only they can fix that.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Well I agree that "the point is why are women so insecure as to care what men see in their magazines? Women also buy the magazines that feature all manner of good-looking men, but you don't see men pining over why they don't look like Brad Pitt, or the Jonah's Brothers." You guys (Hank and Gerhard) are obviously older men who already have partners or are maybe passed caring if you don't, I doubt if either of you work out in a gym. Here in Byron Bay, the number 1 holiday destination in Australia, the gyms are full of young men pumping iron and I don't think that they are doing it just for fun. They are trying to build big abs and biceps to look more like the Brad Pitts and Hugh Jackman's, who also pump iron for hours every day. Let's face it there aren't many men without big abs and biceps in lead romantic roles these days either. Gone are the days of skinny little guys like Woody Allen and the guy from MASH having a lead romantic roles except for Big Bang Theory and Seinfeld of course which are both taking the micky. Obviously you don't have to be pretty, you just need bumps in the right places to be a modern day male or female lead role. A lot of men apparently do worry about whether their penises are big enough and long enough. The suicide rate for men of all ages is very alarming and who knows why most of them are killing themselves, maybe a significant percentage of them are the male equivalents of the women who get boob jobs who have 4 to 6 times more liklihood of committing suicide in later life? The average IQ is 100. That means that 50% of the population have IQs of less than 100. Some of these people in the lower range may also be very vulnerable to these messages from the media which make them feel physically inadequate in a romantic stereotype if they are lacking big boobs, muscles or penises. However, that doesn't apply to the obviously intelligent young women in my ethics class. One of them was top in the state at High School in one of her subjects. However, I don't agree with Gerhard when he says "The unfortunate truth is that too many women are superficial and think that their value derives solely from their appearance. Until they overcome that hurdle, you can blame whoever you like, but in the end, the problem is that they aren't comfortable in their own skin and only they can fix that." Except that I am blaming whoever I like, I'm blaming the movie and television industries for only casting women with large breasts in the lead romantic roles, and fashion parades and magazines for rarely using small breasted models anymore, I agree that many women are not comfortable in their own skins but disagree that only they can fix that. The Government could fix it by treating boob jobs like smoking and legislate so that the media show a health warning with every photo, fashion parade, movie and TV episode using a model with artificial breasts.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Helen, with all respect, the government has enough to worry about without micromanaging how big my boobs are. Seriously. It's none of their business.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I should have also pointed out that the obvious difference between men developing big muscles and women developing big breasts is that the first can be done naturally in a gym, the second can only be done naturally partly by putting on weight which most people consider undesirable or temporarily by breast feeding, so that is probably why some women resort to plastic surgery. The men can cheat too I suppose, by taking steroids but then the unfortunate side effect is that their genitals shrink!
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Except that I am blaming whoever I like, I'm blaming the movie and television industries for only casting women with large breasts in the lead romantic roles, and fashion parades and magazines for rarely using small breasted models anymore,..
    What movies are you watching?  The only truly large breasted woman that comes to mind is Anna Nicole Smith and she was more of a parody than a serious actress.  But anyway ... who are you talking about?  Julia Roberts?  Gwyneth Paltrow?  Kim Cattrall?  You'd certainly be hard pressed to argue that this was a driving force in the popular "Sex in the City" series. 

    I'm sorry, but I simply don't see any evidence that your assertion is remotely true.
    I doubt if either of you work out in a gym....
    I'm not sure what that has to do with anything, but OK ... I'll bite.  I spent the first few years as an adult in the U.S. Marine Corps and I certainly spent several years later training in martial arts and definitely working out in a gym.  However, be assured, that my motivation was entirely self-driven.  While it is flattering to be complimented, it isn't the basis for sustaining any level of motivation.  Once again, it comes down to one's personal objectives, and personal drives to achieve something. 

    What I find ironic is that most women are actually turned off by a guy that is into serious training because he appears too self-centered.  However, I will agree that if a guy thinks that it will improve his chances of getting laid, he'll definitely lift some iron, but you can bet he's not going to go cry with his friends because he's feeling rejected by his girlfriend after watching a Brad Pitt movie.
    The Government could fix it by treating boob jobs like smoking and legislate so that the media show a health warning with every photo, fashion parade, movie and TV episode using a model with artificial breasts.
    Besides not being the government's responsibility, perhaps we could have an "artificial breasts" section in restaurants?  I'm sorry, but I find this position absurd.  I'm a smoker, and I don't agree with the militant stance against smoking that is prevalent in the U.S., but I do understand how smoking can be an intrusion into someone else's space and consequently  why there is some need to control it in confined spaces. 

    However, let's be brutally honest regarding health.  Instead of worrying about breast implants, perhaps people should worry more about what they eat and how they abuse themselves with bad foods and little exercise?  That won't happen because it would hurt too many people's sensitive feelings. 

    Our society seems to go out of its way to cultivate a "victim's" mentality, so that no one has to take responsibility for their choices and there's always someone to blame for failure to do better. 

    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    OK, I'm off to work now, but I am going to try to collect the statistics of how many of these leading actresses have had boob jobs then I'll get back to you.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Not just "boob jobs", but that would qualify as "large-breasted" according to your definition.  The distinction is important since we already know that many celebrities have all manner of cosmetic surgery from face-lifts to liposuction to improve their appearance.  Therefore you need to indicate women that have had a breast augmentation to make your point that "larger breasts" are what gets the lead in such movies.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Well I'm back from work, and I'm too knackered to work out which film stars have had boob jobs, I'll do it another day. Gerhard, you said "I'm not sure what that has to do with anything, but OK ... I'll bite. I spent the first few years as an adult in the U.S. Marine Corps and I certainly spent several years later training in martial arts and definitely working out in a gym. However, be assured, that my motivation was entirely self-driven." Don't you think these women's motives are also self-driven? They are driven by their values and beliefs that they will only be 100% attractive in their own minds and presumably to the men they fancy, if they have a boob job. I also did martial arts, in fact Tae Kwando, for 10 years, but I wasn't trying to build muscles I was learning self-discipline and making sure that next time someone attacked me and I was cornered that I could either fight back or defend myself. By the way, I think its only fair that I admit the obvious, which is that I am a small breasted bonobo. Like most female bonobos I have small boobs but great nipples! I breast fed both of my sons for several years and have never needed to wear a bra. I can run along the beach semi-naked without being hit in the face by huge boobs and I love it. As I get older every decade they get fractionally bigger, but still no sign of droop. My mother at 81 when she died last year had perfect boobs, better than any boob job, but like me she started off small. Once when I was about 18, I was sitting in a pub in London and I remember noticing a beautiful young woman who was almost flat chested and wearing a pretty cotton dress that accentuated this, I thought she looked fabulous and wondered why on earth was I worried about being small breasted and I can honestly say I have never really wished for bigger boobs since that day. I tried to tell the women in my Ethics class but they said that all they knew was that when they eventually had big boobs they were sure that they would feel better about their bodies than they did now. Finally, one other interesting observation that I have made over the years is that nearly all of my larger breasted women friends have told me that they have had problems with their men's sex drive, but none of my smaller breasted friends have ever mentioned this. Then I thought, maybe men who have low sex drives need more exaggerated sexual stimuli to turn them on and are attracted to larger breasted women? Maybe men with high sex drives don't need so much titillation, please excuse the pun.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I tried to tell the women in my Ethics class but they said that all they knew was that when they eventually had big boobs they were sure that they would feel better about their bodies than they did now.
    That's what I don't understand.  What is it that makes them feel inadequate?  I realize there's a fine line here, but I truly wonder if it's self-driven (i.e. where there is something they perceive as wrong) versus some notion that they will be more attractive (i.e. attract a "higher" caliber of man).

    Personally I think the surgical trend has simply become casually accepted and that many women view it no differently than getting a tattoo. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    "Research has suggested that we are drawn to and consider symmetrical faces more attractive". I do not think this statement is a correct interpretation of the current state of the scientific investigation of beauty. In an attempt to derive generalisable objective definitions of beauty, researchers submitted photographs of women generally agreed to be beautiful for computerised analysis. So far, all these researchers have managed to deduce is that women that are generally considered to be beautiful tend to have just one thing in common - symmetry. This is quite different to saying that all symmetrical faces are attractive: it is obviously possible to be symmetrically ugly, and symmetrically repulsive.

    Fred Pauser
    It's not a matter of blame, but of determining the reasons that each individual woman decides to augment her breasts. Helen, you have mentioned the intelligent young women in your ethics class at least twice. Why are they considering implants? Are they aware of the various negative possibilities? Are they aware that their appearance may be enhanced ONLY while wearing clothes? I mean, when they are naked, men can easily tell they are not natural -- and that for at least some men that would be a sexual turn-off? Women certainly should educate themselves on the negative possibilities beforehand. And if they still want to do it, a few sessions of cognitive therapy might be a good idea -- so as to find and examine their inner-most thoughts driving the desire, and to then see just how rational those thoughts are, and to then question if their needs (their real needs) can be met without surgery!
    Andrea Kuszewski
    I guess I really don't see what the problem is with women wanting to enhance their appearance? Other than the surgical aspect, purely speaking of the psychological and social objections raised by Helen, how is it different than dying your hair, or wearing make-up, or wearing a padded bra, for that matter? Are those objectionable also?
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, I would say there is a significant difference between enhance versus alter.  Combing my hair and shaving will enhance my image, but it's quite different from getting botox injections or a nose job.

    As has been mentioned already, obviously a great deal has to do with the person's motivation since any such "enhancement" shouldn't be viewed as a silver bullet capable of fixing more deep-seated problems.  It seems that there's a "statistic" floating around that suggests that women with breast augmentation also have higher suicide rates.  While that sounds rather sweeping, it seems like the point here is that if you have self-esteem issues, then surgery may be inadequate to deal with those deeper issues, which could potentially result in even greater problems.

    Personally, I think people are far too casual about surgery given the intrinsic risks involved.  No matter how common a procedure becomes, it will always have some element of risk and for the 99.999% successes, the failures are truly horrific stories. 

    It is well known that many of these problems exist without recourse to surgery, such as when a woman's self-image is so tattered that she becomes anorexic or bulimic. 

    To me I guess I would consider it objectionable if a woman does something because she thinks it's what men want, rather than because it's what she wants.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    No Fred, I don't think that they are aware that their appearance may be enhanced only while wearing clothes.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Fred Pauser
    Andrea,
    Other than the surgical aspect, purely speaking of the psychological and social objections raised by Helen, how is it different than dying your hair, or wearing make-up, or wearing a padded bra, for that matter? Are those objectionable also?
    The usual wearing of make-up does not alter the body in any fundamental way, and is certainly not objectionable. It often accomplishes the goal of enhancing appearance even though others are aware of its use. It is taken in stride. As Gerhard stated, "there is a significant difference between enhance versus alter." Besides the health risks, breast augmentation is an expensive and drastic step. If it is done to improve sex appeal in bed, or to secure a desired mate, it might fail in those regards for the reason I mentioned above.
    Fred Pauser
    Helen, I agree with much of what you have written. I disagree that its up the government to do something about it. In regard to the suicide stats: I suspect that Gerhard may be correct about self esteem issues being involved -- which may have led to a number of factors contributing to suicide, of which the complications of breast implants after 10 to 20 years were perhaps a contributing factor, maybe even a major factor, but maybe not at the heart of the matter. Remember that correlation does not equal causation. How thorough were the studies? Anyway, women should be fully informed of the pros and cons before undertaking surgery. Maybe there is a place for the government in this: Perhaps by law prospects should be given reading material and then a counseling session with an expert to make sure they know what they may be in for.
    Talk about assymetry My eyes are different colors. My left eye is blue and hazel and my right, blue. Plus its a very striking brilliant intense blue Medterm Hetgero chromatica iridis. BTW my eyebrows are think dark and tend to join in the middle (unibrower) I read 6 % of the world's population ppresent with unibrows. My nose is little, upturned and finally cupid bow lips.
    Born with Waardenburg syndrome 2. Found the quote on mens magazine's quite enlightening, attitude on women.
    I don't bother with society's attitudes. I've been called a freak of nature (face) and I saw so be it. I'm me.