When Justin Timberlake Looks Like a Foetus and Other Tales of Darwinian Bliss
March 27, 2012
I was watching a film with the honourable Mr. Justin Timberlake in yesterday, and I realised something. I really do not find him attractive. Sure, I never have, but before I just chalked it up to him being handsome in a generic way; just “not my type”. This time I really didn’t find him attractive, and I actually kind of thought he looked kinda foetal. So why do I feel this way?
The Biology of Sexual Attraction
A lot of people put sexual attraction down to pheromones. These may play a part, but less so in humans than other animals. And besides, I was watching JT on a screen, so I couldn’t smell him. There are many other factors that contribute to sexual attractiveness, far too many to cover here, but one of the most important is due to hormones. Women prefer more masculine looking men (with stronger jaw lines, a prominent brow ridge and other things that result from high exposure to testosterone in the womb) when they’re ovulating. Men, conversely, generally find a woman more attractive when they’re ovulating, too. So maybe JT was just too girly for my hormones to handle this time.
Both sexes prefer individuals with highly symmetrical facial features. I can’t really relate this to anything about JT because his face looks alright to me (though REALLY, REALLY young) and a lot of other women seem to like it. Apparently, symmetrical faces are attractive because they’re associated with long-term mental performance and fewer genetic disturbances.
Another biological factor is that people often prefer those who look like them, which means that I evidently look nothing like JT, which is pretty sad considering his popularity. The theory works best when an individual has high levels of self-esteem, but does exist at all levels of confidence. This also leads to something known as the race bias, meaning that you’re more likely to be attracted to someone from your own race (because they look like you) than anyone else. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, but these are some general ones.
The Social Aspect
I really like Justin Timberlake. I mean, I’m not a fan, but he did some decent stuff musically and there are a lot of people who act a lot worse than he does. He doesn’t seem like a particularly terrible person, either, so theoretically I should find him attractive, because personalities are important too. However, maybe it’s because we’re not that similar; studies have suggested that we like to be psychologically similar to our mates as well as physically. This is probably because people who are similar to us mentally are likely to have similar goals and aspirations, as well as education levels, and humans like having people to talk to.
People who are perceived to be socially disadvantaged are pretty much unanimously found less attractive, no matter what culture you’re from. A lot of people fancy JT, so this could explain that factor. The reason why social standing is important is mostly to do with offspring, because biologically you want to be with someone who can provide for your children and look after those lovely genes of yours.
Something else that’s worth noting is the exposure effect, which basically contradicts the whole ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ business. The more you’re exposed to something, the more you find it attractive. This applies to both people and objects, because we’re essentially creatures of habit. On occasions, excess exposure can lead to social allergy and too much social interaction with one individual can make us sick of them.
Evidently, there are a whole host of reasons why we do (or do not) find someone attractive. I haven’t really found a reason for my sudden adverse reaction to Justin Timberlake (except maybe my hormones). The good news is, these rules don’t apply in every case!