Sunday, 18 February 2018

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

I believe we all had that moment. Your heart skipped a beat. Pupils dilated. Knees weak. Hands cold as ice. That moment when your heart got this warm feeling and you took a deep breath only to let it out as huge warm sigh. A sigh to remind yourself to breathe. As you regained the posture of a seemingly cool guy, trying to impress whoever was watching (probably no one), you slightly took another peek. Glancing from one end of the room to the other end. And at the focus of that glance, a girl (boy if you’re a girl, or you’re gay or whatever). A quarter of a second was all it took. To measure every detail of her face. To peer at whatever that she was doing. However of course, you’d overstayed your welcome and she noticed you looking at her. A flood of embarrassment came rushing as you pretended to look at somewhere else or trying to occupy yourself with some boring textbook lying open in front of you.  What I’m describing, was my first ever experience of having a crush. A typical high school crush. Love at first sight. Well, not really. Its reciprocal, but I’ll get into that in a moment.

Not Trump
For the longest time, I've been wondering how, why and what is that sensation. It wasn't long however, for me to actually discover those answers. In the study of interpersonal attraction from social psychology, it encompasses on the idea of what makes people attracted towards each other. This means in terms of relationship and even friendships. For the sake of this essay however, I'll be leaning more towards what it takes to be attracted in a relationship. And this first factor for it, you guessed it; physical attraction. A notorious attribute when one considers in choosing a life partner, but it does. Albeit people are denying it, it still serves as one of the reasons people are attracted. Case in point, the Halo effect. A behaviour of evaluating someone based on things that are totally unrelated. Like how we tend to view handsome and pretty people as more intelligent, kind and other good traits. And all this is subconscious. We're not even doing it on purpose. The epitome of this phenomenon, was none other than the 29th president of the United State of America; Warren Harding. I remembered reading in the book “blink” by Malcom Gladwell in which in one of his chapters, discussed about this topic. A great read. In fact, this is the book that made me jumped into the field psychology. Anyways, unanimously Warren Harding was regarded as the worst president of USA. I won’t be going on his presidency and careers, but it is noteworthy to mention how in the world was he elected to be the president in the first place? Related back to what I mentioned, about how the physical appearance can be a very crucial factor in deciding people’s opinion. A sleek, well groomed, the phrase tall, dark and handsome were the first impression that popped into people’s mind when they saw him. It’s what you would expect to run a country. However it’s all on the surface. It’s hard to ignore that all this talk about physical appearance, we must consider and contemplate about our genetic inheritance.

In nature, at the very basic, the very roots of the species, we fight for survival. The grasshoppers go through evolution of its skin to blend in with the leaves. The ones that didn’t however, are made into prey for the predators. The stronger acquire mates to reproduce. That’s natural selection for you. This, in way is true to an extent. We value those that have that beautiful genetics. Wanting to have our offspring bearing his or her genes. And what’s left are the fat ugly and incompetent to die for nature to make its evolutionary selection. Alas, we’re not really animals are we? It fascinates me to realised, that most unattractive people I’ve met have the most fun personality and character. A way to make up for what’s missing. The balance is there. The ones that are left alone, without a matting partner, deprived of their need for passing down their genes to the next generation, completing the cycle of evolution, are the people that have no effort whatsoever to be competent. Be it to have the physical appearance or the attitudes and personality that can attract people.

Speaking of attitudes and personalities, I should talk about it. It’s inevitable to talk about attraction and not mentioning what seems to be the core pillar of attraction. No- I’m not talking about personality. Rather, even deeper into it; similarity. It’s only logical isn’t it? The personality that we are looking for in a partner should match ours. Not just personality, but cultural backgrounds, and even the physical appearance. However, opposites attract doesn’t it? This is where numerous studies suggest the complementary model. We are attracted to those that complement us. Filling those empty attributes and us, unto them. These two factors does seems a bit contradicting. In this matter however, I believe there’s always a balance between those two opposing forces. It is in some way, a good factor for having similarity in an initial relationships, however most studies suggest that complementary in a relationships is a lot more important as time goes on. Well, primarily because complementary works best in terms of dominance and submissive. Two hotheads would try to win over each other, while the other two mellows are two passive to start any initiative.

The next factor however, got me more than mere interested, as I had realise it even before conducting this read. It’s the propinquity effect and the mere exposure effect. An easy way of demonstrating this, is with a sitcom; The Office (the US version, not the UK). If you haven’t watch it yet, here’s a spoiler; Jim and Pam got married, but still, their whole journey was so realistic. I know, I’m taking an example from a fictional TV-series. A comedy. But it just shows, how  closer you are with that person, the more likely you would be attracted to that person. The story I shared at the beginning of this essay? Yeah, she’s a classmate. The propinquity effect entails that we have better chance to meet with the closer people, much like how people whom live in the same building tend to come together more often, that’s Residential Propinquity. That love interest with Jim and Pam, that’s Occupational Propinquity. And finally, Acquaintance Propinquity. This also ties with mere exposure effect. Meeting that same guy over and over again, for days on ends, will eventually make him more pleasing and more like-able. 

Yep. no words needed here.
           I haven’t finished my story have I? I just said it was reciprocal. Well, the intial feelings I got was because there was this rumour that she liked me. And oh boy how did that made me euphoric, but the simple truth is just that she thought I was a creepy weirdo. Wait, I’m still a creepy weirdo, but I’m proud to be one. On more pressing matters, if you are in the same cultural background as me, I want to pose a question. I just listed above, on what makes people attracted to each other. How relationship that could last a lifetime be made. All of this tools are already inside of you. But how in the world, where we can choose our soulmate based on our own decision, not affected by anyone else, we tend to get divorce? Compared to the early 2000’s where most marriages are arranged. Dr. Sumeet Kaur gave an interview with The Rakyat Post about “Why Malaysian Couples get Divorced”. I quote, “Arranged marriages are done after taking into consideration socio-economic status, religion, culture and compatibility between families. Love marriages focus more on the emotional connection and passion between two individuals and it does require, to a certain extent, cumbersome adjustments after marriage. But in love marriages, couples are used to idea of instant gratification so when they don’t receive the same feel after marriage, things can turn sour”. This idea of “True Love” what kills marriages. Well, I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist, but people tend to believe that “True Love” comes magically without any effort. When sparks fly, and the cosmos lined up for your meeting, things will be happily ever after. It doesn’t work like that. Of course, divorces keep on escalating nowadays, may be because of financial reasons, or even abusive husbands. Nonetheless, the mentality of the people must also take into consideration. I will only leave you with that. But you don’t really have to post an answer down in the comments. It’s just a rhetorical question.   
Dr. Sumeet Kaur


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