Perception of Female Attractiveness

The perception of the attractiveness of women is influenced by two major contributing factors the Waist-to-Hip ratio (WHR) and the Body Mass Index (BMI). It was concluded that at first, WHR was the more influential of the two, however after further investigation and more accurate regression analysis BMI was the more influential. However, together they only resulted in under 50% of the variance, suggesting that there are many other contributing factors that influence the perception of female attractiveness. Introduction

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a ratio between the height and weight of a person, calculated by the weight of the person (in kilograms) by their height squared (in metres). Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR) is considered to be the factor that signals female fertility and health. This is because healthy, premenstrual women deposit fat on their lower body parts resulting in a feminine characteristic, whereas males deposit fat on their upper body parts. When considering the influence of WHR, alone, on attractiveness lower values of the WHR are considered to be more attractive, with values between 0.

6-0. 7 being maximally attractive. Attractiveness is not only based upon the WHR but also on the BMI. Females with very low BMI values (underweight) and very high BMI values (overweight) are considered to be unattractive, with the middle of the BMI value range considered to be attractive and healthy. However, it is that influences of both these factors have upon the perception of attractiveness that has lead to research. Many experiments have been conducted in order to understand which of these two contributing factors are more important in the perception of female attractiveness.

Findings by Devendra Singh (1994) conclude that both men and women judged heavier female images with low WHRs as more attractive and healthier than thinner images with higher WHRs. These results show that both the WHR and BMI are considerable contributing factors to the perception of attractiveness. The ideal image has stemmed many other research ideas and it has been found that women chose thin female figures as ideal and perceive their own figure as fatter than the ideal (Fallon and Rozin 1985, cited in Singh 1994).

Also, women choose their ideal figure to be much thinner than what they believe to be men’s perception of attractive (Fallon and Rozin 1985, cited in Singh 1994). Studies have lead to the assumption that the WHR and BMI influence different aspects of images that all amalgamate into the perception of how attractive that image is. BMI seems to be more influential in the perception of youthfulness (Singh 1994) and studies have found that WHR could be related to fertility and the tendency to give birth to males, rather than females (Tovee & Cornelissen, 1999).

Previous studies have indicated that the BMI is the more influential factor in the perception of attractiveness accounting for more than 70% of the multiple regression analysis where WHR accounts for just 2%. This would suggest that the result of this experiment would be similar and that BMI is the more important contributing factor. However, as mentioned previously, Singh (1994) concluded that women judge perception of attractiveness taking into account the WHR more than the BMI. It has been suggested that in modern society a premium has been placed on thinness and thus it has resulted in the general assumption that ‘thin is attractive’.

This has certainly been the case in more Westernized civilisations where low WHR is preferred. However, in more traditional societies a higher WHR is preferred as higher WHR is related to the reproduction of sons. So, in societies that value sons over daughters a more ‘tubular’ shaped women is preferred. This may also be due to the media’s representation of attractive, which in many societies is thin, thus partly explaining the obsession with dieting and the struggle to become thin.

This brings notice to the problems of eating disorders and how they affect an individual’s perception of attractiveness. Morris et al (1989) found that over a 20 year period (1959-1978) the weight of Miss America Pageant contestants and Playboy centrefolds significantly decreased. However, it was also found that average waist size increased and bust and hip size decreased, resulting in a more ‘tubular’ shaped woman. The overall conclusion was that over the last three decades a significant change in the idealized female body shape has occurred.

However, later studies showed that Morris et al results were inaccurate and that when the actual WHRs were computed they remained within a feminine 0. 68-0. 72 range thus, clearly showing that the subjects were not becoming a more ‘tubular’ shape (Singh 1994). Hypothesis: BMI will be significantly more important than WHR in determining the attractiveness of a female body. Null Hypothesis: There will be no significant difference between the BMI and WHR in determining the attractiveness of the female body Method Apparatus: The only apparatus involved was the actual computer programme.

The computer programme involved a number of images of the shape of the female body. These images were in black and white and the figure wore a skin tight leotard. The faces were ‘blurred’ out so there was no bias in the attractiveness of the facial features. Subjects: The entire psychology class took place in the experiment. The gender of the group was mixed. Although a large proportion of the class was female. The age of the stage two students was predominantly between 19-22 years of age. They were nai?? ve in the intended outcome of the study at this point.

Procedure: The Body Mass Index (BMI) and the waist-to-hip ratio were being investigated. The subjects were presented with a series of 50 female images in front view on a VDU screen. The images varied in Body Mass Index and in waist-to-hip ratio. The subjects were then asked to rate each image on a scale of 0-9, typing their rating into the computer. The first time the subjects went through a practice run so that they could gage their general idea for the ratings. The second time the results were counted and saved, and pooled together with the rest of the class’s results.

Graph 1: Scatter plot of the relationship between attraction (a) and the Body Mass Index (b). This shows that the data has no real relationship and appears to be random. Graph 2: Scatter plot of the relationship between attraction and …

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