What Class: Psychology of Beauty and Attraction
Who Teaches It: Professor T. Joel Wade, psychology
"This class focuses on how the biological motivations that helped our ancestors survive and adapt to different environments continue to play a role in attraction and our perceptions of beauty.
"Although most people aren't aware of it, biology influences the characteristics we prefer in our mates. It also shapes our correlates of beauty, meaning which parts of the face and body we focus on, and why we focus on them. In addition, our biological makeup affects how we attract mates, such as by flirting and displaying our attributes. And there's a biological basis for how beauty impacts our behavior toward potential mates and others, such as our clothing choices.
"This course also looks at the biological motivations for different types of love and how love manifests itself in our brains, as well as jealousy and why it can be beneficial. In addition, we explore the biological roots of reactions to infidelity, reconciliations after romantic spats, and 'mate poaching,' or stealing a mate from someone else.
"The class explains how our biology affects our psychology. It demonstrates how we are not consciously aware of the motivations behind our decisions regarding beauty and attraction, and that there is more universality regarding beauty and attraction than one might think. We also discuss why men and women have different motivations for their judgments of beauty, for the actions they perform to attract mates, and for their actions within relationships.
"Students learn that attraction and beauty are not trivial, shallow, media-derived subjects. After taking the course, they'll notice things about potential or current mates and relationships that they were not previously consciously aware of.
"Beauty and attraction have been considered trivial topics in psychology since the mid-1970s, when a study examining why people fall in love received a Golden Fleece Award for squandering federal funding on what some called frivolous scientific research. As someone whose research focuses on various aspects of beauty, attraction and relationships, I created this course because I wanted to give students the opportunity to learn that these topics are important, and to foster understanding of why the biological bases of love, beauty and attraction are worthy of scientific inquiry."
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