Kids’ Views on Beauty




I have a confession to make: I was a late-bloomer. I didn't start regularly kissing girls until the 5th grade (I'm pretty sure that Kelly, Liz, Bianca are not evolvify readers... but ladies, if you are, don't worry, nobody will make the connection). So it's with trepidation that I unleash this video of the most adorable, cutest bad-assest kids.

Elliot: "Why did you kiss me?"

Bowie: "Because I like you."

Elliot: "I kissed you because I like you. I kiss you 'cause you like me."

Amen lil' brother. Wouldn't it be cool if life was this simple? Well... sorry to burst your rationalization bubble, but it kind of is.

Maybe choose a girl with all her teeth next time, but hey, I'm not judging.

But behind the scenes, we have something a little more relevant for It starts off all puppy dogs and ice cream, and the first half is important, but check out the transition in Elliot's responses at around 2 minutes when he's really pressed on what's important...

I'd originally intended to write something about the article "Preschoolers Already Think Thin is Beautiful", but the videos were more fun and kinda sorta tied in nicely. That article leads...

"Kids as young as 4 think thin is beautiful, suggesting that media associations of thinness with beauty sink in early."

Sorry, but that statement (whether it's true or not) is logically flawed. There is nothing in "kids as young as 4 think thin is beautiful" that suggests anything other than that kids as young as 4 think thin is beautiful. Another option is that humans have behavioral heuristics that are innate and kids as young as 4 are capable of expressing this. Yet another option is that humans are innately more susceptible to learning to associate thinness with beauty and kids as young as 4 have learned the preference and are capable of expressing this. Evolutionarily speaking, which is most likely?

The article continues...

Even the youngest 4-year-olds in the study ranked the "most beautiful" body as significantly thinner than the normal-weight original. On average, participants thought the prettiest body was the one that shaved about 5 percent off the width of the original. Meanwhile, the body ranked "most normal" was the original normal-BMI image.

This may be evidence of a cultural influence, but it also may be a heuristic along the lines of error-management theory. Probabilistically, if being overweight was more detrimental to survival and/or reproduction over the course of evolution, a simple "skinny is better" bias could have evolved as a behavioral mechanism. Again, it also could (read: probably would) have evolved in such a way that resource signals from the environment shape the preference. The latter instance seems to be the case in adults coming from resource abundant urban areas when cross-culturally compared with resource scarce agrarian communities.

This is a lead-in to a future article discussing the stigmatization of obesity. If you haven't already, you should subscribe. I'll be discussing the following studies

  • "Stigmatization of obesity in medieval times: Asia and Europe."
  • "Evolutionary origins of the obesity epidemic: natural selection of thrifty genes or genetic drift following predation release?"
  • "The relationship between obesity and fecundity."
  • "Pathogen-avoidance mechanisms and the stigmatization of obese people"
  • and maybe a few more

For now, I'm most curious about your thoughts on the second video. How much (and what) of that is socialization, and how much do you think has a basis in evolved behavior? Also, is the linked article convincing in arguing for a cultural explanation for the preference for skinny?