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In this provocative, witty, and thoroughly researched inquiry into what we find beautiful and why, Nancy Etcoff, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, skewers one of our culture's most enduring myths, that the pursuit of beauty is a learned behavior.
Etcoff puts forth that beauty is neither a cultural construction, an invention of the fashion industry, nor a backlash against feminism, but instead is in our biology. It's an essential and ineradicable part of human nature that is revered and ferociously pursued in nearly every civilization—and for good reason. Those features to which we are most attracted are often signals of fertility and fecundity. When seen in the context of a Darwinian struggle for survival, our sometimes extreme attempts to attain beauty—both to become beautiful ourselves and to acquire an attractive partner—become understandable. Moreover, if we come to understand how the desire for beauty is innate, then we can begin to work in our interests, and not soley for the interests of our genetic tendencies.
"Authoritative and surprisingly entertaining." —Chicago Tribune
"Survival of the Prettiest is the first book to pull all of the science on beauty into one lively yet thoughtful package, showing again that it's not just ax-grinding males who believe that biology continues to play an important role in our lives." —The New York Times Book Review
"Through a series of global scientific studies, Etcoff . . . presents a compelling argument for why so many cultures are influenced by beauty." —The Boston Globe
"Nancy Etcoff . . . writes confidently that today's culture of beauty is not a backlash against feminism. She delves into why we devour fashion magazines, agonize about waist sizes, and gaze longingly at objects of desire." —Houston Chronicle