If a naked female stands in front of a man, where do his eyes gaze first and why? What judgment can you make about a man based on his hands?  Why can a seemingly beautiful person be such a physical turn off? Why do women flip their hair when sexually attracted? What facial clue on a man is correlated with him being less faithful? The answers to these questions and more are probably not what you think.

Choices from whom you date, marry and mate to how much money, friends and happiness you acquire often swivel on life-altering decisions made within fractions of a second.  And so much of this process occurs in the deepest, darkest and most primitive corridors of the subconscious mind.  As much as we want to believe we are so advanced, it is for less than one percent of our evolution that we have been civilized— our brains have been evolving over 3.5 million years. And this process doesn’t care about the social, political or conventional wisdoms of the day. Evolution only concerns itself with promotion of a more adapted species.  Regardless of whether you believe in God or intelligent design, there is a reason that sugar is sweet, a growling beast is feared and that we all covet beauty.

Beauty, perhaps the rawest of all energies fueling evolution, is relevant and consistent throughout nature. It is a universal form of communication that boasts, “I am healthy well and have good genes.”  Regardless if it is a blooming flower, a peacock’s tail or a woman’s bright blue eyes, beauty’s main purpose boils down to ideal partners finding each other and procreating, ensuing a more genetically fit offspring.

According to research in the Journal of Neuropsychologia, this primitive form of messaging imparts its influence on the subconscious mind. When volunteers were asked to judge the ages of beautiful women, their pleasure centers in their brains were stimulated, but when asked to judge their beauty, their pleasure centers were under-stimulated. In other words if you have to consciously think or judge whether or not someone is beautiful— you don’t receive as much pleasure as when you subconsciously evaluate beauty.

Although we may fight and reject these instincts as shallow, we can’t help it. Unfortunately most of us are unaware of the subconscious clues we— as well as others— are constantly emitting. Better to recognize, understand and manage them then to dismiss and damn them.  Studies featured in journals such as Psychological Science, Proceedings of Biology Science and Archives of Sexual Behaviors have confirmed that certain fertility boosting physical characteristics in women— such as facial symmetry, youthfulness, ideal waist-to-hip ratio, long hair and odor— are key primal elements to creating a positive first impression.

In men, signs of virility such as a large chest, jutting jaw and powerful profile are attention grabbing. In fact, in two studies featured in Behavior Brian Science and AM J of Sociology Journals, evaluating West Point cadets followed over a 50-year period revealed that the rank achieved in the military can be correlated to facial features of dominance.  

Similarly the financial success of the top and bottom 25 companies in the Fortune 1000 can be correlated to the dominant masculinizing facial features of the CEO. Like it or not, both sexes have a visceral reaction to these fertile traits.  

But beauty is not by itself what attracts us. There is something much more vibrant, meaningful and effective that brings people together whether it is for romantic, social or professional needs. Beauty and attraction are very distinct entities. While beauty is raw, primitive attraction is dynamic and advanced.   And beauty is just one parcel of what makes a person attractive. From hair to smell to posture, expression, voice and more – attractiveness is a composite that goes way beyond the surface.  By fully understanding the vast and complex array of influences which are packed into those 100 milliseconds we have to make a first impression, we are able to master its outcome. The sexiest person in the room is not necessarily the one who is objectively the most symmetrical or physically perfect. It is the person who projects self-confidence and happiness. Yes, cosmetics, hairstyles and medical treatments can physically modify the face and body to achieve an idealized form.

But it is through an ability to improve self-esteem that an individual can alter appearances and actions to create a better first impression. And self-esteem is enhanced differently for each. As the well-known notion —confirmed in a study out of the University of Oregon— goes, the beautiful are granted certain societal advantages. For every point on a scale of 1-11 that a female is ranked more beautiful, she make 50 cents more money, but for every point she ranks herself higher on that same scale she makes 86 cents. Therefore this study supports that a woman is likely to make 70 percent more money if she thinks she is beautiful, rather than if she is objectively considered beautiful by other’s standards. It is those who think they are beautiful that actually gain the most benefits.

Learning the subliminal code to what is beautiful and why is the first step to rapidly feeling and truly being beautiful.

Dr. Steven Dayan is an internationally recognized board-certified facial plastic surgeon, frequent lecturer, physician educator, and active researcher in emerging cosmetic medicine technologies and techniques. He has published more than eighty articles in medical journals and authored four books. As a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois he has trained thousands of physicians worldwide. But it is in his role as an adjunct professor at DePaul University where he passionately teaches a popular course on the “Science of beauty and its impact on culture and business” that this book is based.  A portion of the proceeds from the book go to the Enhance Educational Foundation, a non-for profit providing educational opportunities for disadvantaged Chicago youths www.enhancefoundation.org.