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The Ugly Side of Beauty

Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain Media

Science, Arts, Social Sciences, Performing Arts

4.6 • 39.3K Ratings

🗓️ 11 December 2023

⏱️ 51 minutes

🧾️ Download transcript

Summary

We like to tell kids, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But from a very early age, we humans are doing just that — judging others based on how they look. This week, we bring you the second part of our look at the science of beauty and talk with psychologists Vivian Zayas and Stefanie Johnson about how appearances can often lead us astray.

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0:00.0

This is Hidden Brain. I'm Shankar Vedantam.

0:03.0

In the famous children's fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling,

0:07.0

a mother duck lays a clutch of eggs.

0:10.0

When the hatchlings emerge, one is different from the rest.

0:15.0

He is huge and awkward looking.

0:18.0

His feathers are not yellow or black, but a muted gray.

0:23.6

As soon as he's hatched, the bullying begins, not only from his siblings, but other animals

0:29.5

too.

0:31.0

And so the ugly duckling roams the countryside, slowly accepting his fate of being an outcast.

0:39.0

Then, one day, he sees a flock of swans, entranced by their beauty, he swims toward them.

0:46.9

As he gets closer, he expects them to be disgusted by his appearance, just like all the other

0:52.4

creatures he has encountered.

0:55.5

But to his surprise, they welcome him with open wings.

1:01.4

You know the rest of the story. The flock of swans sees the duckling for what he truly is.

1:06.0

A young swan who will grow up to be as beautiful as the rest of them.

1:19.4

I've long had misgivings about the story. What is its moral? If people don't look like they belong to our tribe, it's okay to treat them badly we can only find acceptance among people

1:25.4

who are just like us to be ugly is to be cursed in our episode last week, we explored the science of beauty, why we are attracted to it and how we are moved by it.

1:40.0

If you miss that episode, please do listen to it.

1:44.0

This week we explore some of the more complicated elements of our fascination with beauty,

1:49.0

especially beautiful people.

1:52.0

From infancy, human beings are fascinated by beautiful people.

1:53.0

From infancy, human beings are fascinated by those who are good looking.

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