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Why We Like to Look at Pretty Faces?

Beautiful faceToday you may have seen dozens of people’s faces, and if you live in a city, you might see many more. You might not have been conscious of it, but you were judging every one subtly by its beauty. Your eyes are drawn to those who have more attractive faces, and the almost inescapable result is that more attractive people have advantages in almost every aspect of life from prison sentencing to job interviewing. However, what drives us to crave beauty so much?

A recent study published in Molecular Psychiatry found that people like to look at beautiful faces at least in part because our brains reward us. The paper points out that gazing upon pretty faces stimulates the brain’s μ-opioid receptors (MOR), which is a key part of our biochemical reward system.

At least in rodents, inhibiting or stimulating MOR neurotransmissions not only tweaks the animals’ appetite for food or sex, but also the strength of their preferences for particular mates or foods. Is our preference for beauty driven by the same biochemical reward circuit?

In order to find out, the researchers invited 30 heterosexual men to browse a series of female faces on a computer. Each of them received either a dose of the MOR-stimulating drug morphine, the opioid receptor-inhibiting drug naltrexone, or a placebo.

Stimulating MOR neurotransmission made men feel the beautiful faces become more attractive and linger longer on the pretty faces, while inhibiting MOR showed the opposite effects.

The findings suggest that our social interactions are greatly affected by the invisible hand of evolution, pushing us to find attractive mates. However, the question still remains – how do we decide which face is more attractive in the first place?

Source: Science Shot

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