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Why Barbie Is Beautiful

Why Barbie Is Beautiful

By David Hall

The long-term success of the Barbie doll suggests the physical characteristics of the doll are perceived as attractive. When viewed in the context of universal attractiveness, response to the doll raises the question of why Barbie is perceived as attractive.

Published paleontological data on hominid fossils indicate how the shapes and anatomical proportions of humans have evolved. Included in the fossils are phenotypic traits no longer prevalent in humans (primitive) and phenotypic traits that have become increasingly prevalent (derived). It is noted that the anatomical proportions of the Barbie doll are exaggerated and emphasise derived characteristics.

It was proposed that in the perception of human form, derived traits are perceived as attractive while primitive traits are perceived as unattractive.

Drawings and photographs were utilised to survey reactions to a comparison of primitive versus derived traits by 495 subjects, instructed to select the shape or proportion they considered more attractive. There was significant agreement among the subjects that derived anatomical traits were perceived as more attractive than primitive ones.

The Barbie doll is illustrative of how human beauty has evolved and indicates elements of human form that appear beautiful. The doll emphasises our derived evolutionary traits and, possibly, that is why the doll is perceived as attractive.

Some Barbie Trivia:

Barbie (or Barbara Millicent Roberts) is 45, and hails from Willows, Wisconsin. She has five sisters (Skipper, Tutti, Stacie, Kelly and Krissy), and a brother (Todd), and has had over 80 careers and 43 pets.

The best-selling Barbie doll ever was “totally hair Barbie”, with hair from her head to her toes. She originally cost $3, and has a 39-18-33 figure.


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[Magro, Albert. M. (1997). Fairmont State College, School of Science and Mathematics, West Virginia, USA. Perceptual and Motor Skills 85, 363-374.]

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