Human female attractiveness: waveform analysis of body shape.

Tovee, Martin J., Hancock, Peter J.B., Mahmoodi, Sasan , Singleton, Ben R. R. and Cornelissen, Piers L. (2002) Human female attractiveness: waveform analysis of body shape. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 269 (1506). pp. 2205-2213. ISSN 0950-1193

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Two putative cues to female physical attractiveness are body mass index (BMI) and shape (particularly
the waist–hip ratio or WHR). To determine the relative importance of these cues we asked 23 male and 23
female undergraduates to rate a set of 60 pictures of real women’s bodies in front-view for attractiveness. In
our set of images, the relative ranges of BMI and WHR favoured WHR. We based these ranges on a
sample of 457 women. We did not limit the WHR range, although we kept the BMI range to 0.5 s.d.
either side of the sample means. As a result, WHR averaged 1.65 s.d. either side of its sample mean.
However, even with these advantages, WHR was less important than BMI as a predictor of attractiveness
ratings for bodies. BMI is far more strongly correlated with ratings of attractiveness than WHR (BMI ~ 0.5,
WHR ~ 0.2). To further explore the relative importance of BMI and WHR, we deliberately chose a subset
of these images that demonstrated an inverse correlation of BMI and WHR (i.e. a group in which as
images get heavier they also become more curvaceous). If WHR is the most important determinant of
attractiveness, then the more curvaceous (but higher BMI) images should be judged most attractive.
However, if BMI is a better predictor, then the opposite should be true. We found that the more curvaceous
(but higher BMI) images were judged least attractive, thereby inverting the expected rating pattern.
This strongly suggests that viewers’ judgements were influenced more by BMI than WHR. Finally,
it is possible that body shape is an important cue to attractiveness, but that simple ratios (such as WHR)
are not adequately capturing it. Therefore, we treated the outline of the torso as a waveform and carried
out a set of waveform analyses on it to allow us to quantify body shape and correlate it with attractiveness.
The waveform analyses address the complexity of the whole torso shape, and reveal innate properties of
the torso shape and not shape elements based on prior decisions about arbitrary physical features. Our
analyses decompose the waveform into objective quantified elements whose importance in predicting
attractiveness can then be tested. All of the components that were good descriptors of body shape were
weakly correlated with attractiveness. Our results suggest that BMI is a stronger predictor of attractiveness
than WHR.

Keywords:female physical attractiveness, body mass index, waist–hip ratio, body shape
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C830 Experimental Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C880 Social Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C841 Health Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C840 Clinical Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:28261
Deposited On:11 Aug 2017 11:20

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