Survival of the Prettiest
The Science of Beauty
(If any tax is payable it will be calculated and shown at checkout.)
Print & copy permissions
About the author
Nancy Etcoff has an M.Ed. from Harvard, a Ph.D. in psychology from Boston University, and has held a post-doctoral fellowship in brain and cognitive sciences at MIT. She is currently a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
A witty and thoroughly researched inquiry into what we find beautiful and why, skewering the myth that the pursuit of beauty is a learned behavior.
In Survival of the Prettiest, Nancy Etcoff, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, argues that beauty is neither a cultural construction, an invention of the fashion industry, nor a backlash against feminism—it’s in our biology.
Beauty, she explains, is 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—suddenly become much more understandable. Moreover, if we understand how the desire for beauty is innate, then we can begin to work in our own interests, and not just the interests of our genetic tendencies.
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
; February 2011
336 pages; ISBN 9780307779113Read online
, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Survival of the Prettiest
Author: Nancy Etcoff
Eight Essays on the Face - Boston Review
Sat, 18 Apr 2015 06:32:23 -0700
Boston ReviewEight Essays on the FaceBoston ReviewPerhaps more to the point today, how is reading an imageâ€”the â€œclosedâ€ or ...
In the press
Advance Praise for Survival of the Prettiest:
"Sparkling prose, dazzling insights on a subject which inherently attracts us, make this scientific page-turner irresistible."
--Paul Ekman, Professor, University of California, San Francisco
"Although I did not enjoy being called a 'genetic freak,' I did find Nancy Etcoff's book thought-provoking and a good read--yes, we can read too. Her writings explore the existence of aesthetic beauty, without placing judgments upon it. Rather, she looks at our reaction to it."
"Erudite, pithy, witty, and indeed beautiful, Nancy Etcoff's prose brings sense at last to the study of beauty. She demonstrates that beauty evolved in the brain of the beholder and the body of the beheld for fascinating evolutionary reasons."
--Matt Ridley, author of The Origins of Virtue and The Red Queen
"Forget the myths about beauty; it isn't skin-deep, or in the eye of the beholder, or 'culturally constructed.' Our notion of beauty is ancient and universal, embedded in our genes--a Stone Age body scan brimming with information about health and fertility. Nancy Etcoff provides a lucid, authoritative guide to these latest insights of Darwinian science. At last, a book about beauty that won't go out of fashion."
--Helena Cronin, London School of Economics, author of The Ant and the Peacock
"In this fascinating book, Nancy Etcoff makes a compelling argument that our fascination with beauty has deep roots in our genes. As a pioneer in this cutting-edge field, she writes with authority, clarity, and no little wit." --Dean Hamer, National Cancer Institute, author of Living with Our Genes and The Science of Desire
"Nancy Etcoff deftly and fatally skewers one of the most enduring pretensions of the intellectual class: that beauty is only a cultural artifact, a distraction and temptation for weaker minds. With volumes of hard data and loads of humor, she shows that the experience of beauty is on a par with that of hunger or pain--an evolutionary adaptation complete with universal attributes and interesting psychology."
--Alex P. Pentland, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"This is a spellbinding book. Dr. Etcoff raises--and often answers--fascinating questions about how the brain responds to the beauty of the human form."
--V.S. Ramachandran, Professor and Director, Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego, author (with S. Blakeslee) of Phantoms in the Brain
From the Hardcover edition.