A new study is good news for women, and both good and bad news for men. First, the good news for the ladies -- research shows women are getting better looking. Now the bad news for men -- they are staying the same. But the good news for the men -- women are getting better looking!
Researchers from the University of Helsinki used data gathered here in the U.S., in which 1,244 women and 997 men were followed through four decades of life. Their attractiveness was assessed from photographs taken during the study, which also collected data on the number of children they had.
The researchers found that beautiful women have 16% more children than their plainer counterparts and that a higher proportion of those children are female. Those daughters, once adult, also tend to be attractive and so repeat the pattern.
This builds on previous work by Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, who found that good-looking parents were far more likely to conceive daughters. He suggested this was an evolutionary strategy subtly programmed into human DNA.
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“Physical attractiveness is a highly heritable trait, which disproportionately increases the reproductive success of daughters much more than that of sons," Kanazawa said. “If more attractive parents have more daughters and if physical attractiveness is heritable, it logically follows that women over many generations gradually become more physically attractive on average than men.”
As far as the men, good looks appear to count for little, with handsome men being no more successful than others in terms of numbers of children. This means there has been little pressure for men’s appearance to evolve.
But women can take consolation that men are subject to other types of evolutionary pressure.
Gayle Brewer, a psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, said, “Men and women seek different things in their partners. For women, looks are much less important in a man than his ability to look after her when she is pregnant and nursing, periods when women are vulnerable to predators. Historically this has meant rich men tend to have more wives and many children. So the pressure is on men to be successful.”