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Physical attractiveness is the degree to which a person's physical features are considered aesthetically pleasing or beautiful.
The term often implies sexual attractiveness or desirability, but can also be distinct from either.
The perception of attractiveness can have a significant effect on how people are judged in terms of employment or social opportunities, friendship, sexual behavior, and marriage.
However, there are numerous differences based on gender.
It has been argued that masculine facial dimorphism (in men) and symmetry in faces are signals advertising genetic quality in potential mates.
Studies have found that women who perceive themselves as being more physically attractive are more likely to favor men with a higher degree of facial symmetry, than are women who perceive themselves as being less physically attractive.
Female respondents in the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle were significantly more likely to choose a masculine face than those in menses and luteal phases, Studies have found that women who perceive themselves as physically attractive are more likely to choose men with masculine facial dimorphism, than are women who perceive themselves as physically unattractive.
One study called into question the importance of facial masculinity in physical attractiveness in men arguing that when perceived health, which is factored into facial masculinity, is discounted it makes little difference in physical attractiveness.
With these findings, the study reasoned that if a woman were to reproduce with a man with a more masculine face, then her daughters would also inherit a more masculine face, making the daughters less attractive.
The study concluded that there must be other factors that advantage the genetics for masculine male faces to offset their reproductive disadvantage in terms of "health", "fertility" and "facial attractiveness" when the same genetics are present in females.
With regard to brain activation related to the perception of attractive bodies, one study with heterosexual participants suggests that activity in the nucleus accumbens and the anterior cingulate cortex increases with increasing attractiveness.