Homo Consumericus

The nature and nurture of consumption

Men’s Preference for the Female Hourglass Figure.

The appeal of women with curves: Latest data.

Beyonce_CurvesFour recent studies, using wildly different data sets, radically different methodologies, and spanning countless cultures, provide further evidence regarding men's preferred waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) preference in women, namely, a WHR in the range of 0.68 to 0.72.

In 2008, I published a paper in the International Journal of e-Collaboration wherein I had investigated the WHRs of advertised female online escorts across 48 countries (1,068 female profiles were coded). The mean advertised WHR ratio was 0.72. Incidentally, I've also looked at the WHRs of sex dolls of a company that specializes in the manufacturing of this particular product. The mean WHR across ten doll models was 0.68. Obviously, both of these figures (no pun intended) fall within the expected preferred range of 0.68 to 0.72.

Barnaby J. Dixson of Victoria University in New Zealand, along with several colleagues, has published two papers in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (2009) and in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology (in press) that further lend credence to the hourglass preference using highly novel data sources. In one case, Dixson et al. used an eye-tracking apparatus to capture the areas that men are most likely to look at (and the first areas that they gaze at) when exposed to frontal images of a naked woman. Six different version of the photo were created, by altering the woman's breast size and WHR (three breast sizes and two WHRs). Not surprisingly, men focused on the breasts and the midriff, and they preferred the WHR of 0.70. In a second study, Dixson and his colleagues explored the WHRs of men in extremely remote villages in Papua New Guinea. In this case, this is a particularly relevant data set as the men in question are minimally (if at all) exposed to Western images. Hence, the notion that men's preferences are socially constructed can be tested in a very direct manner. The men were shown photos of ten women's bodies both preoperatively and postoperatively. The women had had a micrograft surgery that produces a more pronounced hourglass shape. The mean WHR of the ten women preoperatively was 0.80 whereas postoperatively it was 0.72. The Papua New Guinean men had a much stronger preference for the postoperative WHR of 0.72.

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Finally, Steve Platek and Devendra Singh (who is the grand daddy of research on WHR) have a recent paper in PLoS wherein they imaged men's brains as these watched images of preoperative and postoperative women (the latter having WHRs much closer to the preferred near-universal ideal of 0.70). There was greater activation in regions of the brain associated with reward processing when men viewed the postoperative photos.

Note that in the last paragraph, I used the term near-universal. This recognizes the fact that cultural contexts can alter an evolved WHR preference. For example, in environments defined by a greater likelihood of caloric uncertainty, men's preferences shift toward a larger WHR. Hence, even in an instance where there is unequivocal evidence for an innate preference, culture still plays an important role in shaping the phenomenon in question.

Be on the lookout for my forthcoming trade book to be published by Prometheus Books next year wherein I discuss the latter studies in the context of advertising along with endless other fun and interesting facts about our innate consummatory nature.

Twitter Alert: Finally, I was advised that it would be a good idea if I were to set up a Twitter account. Frankly, I am unsure what the exact benefits of this tool are in my case but I thought that I should at least try it out and see what it leads to. Hence, to those who wish to follow me, you can do so at @GadSaad. I am likely to mainly use it to make professional announcements such as when I put up a post, or when my next book comes out etc. Please don't expect me to be "Twittering" about the Tuna salad that I am eating, and the stormy weather outside!

Source for Image:
http://fashion.mirror.co.uk/css/beyoncecurves_110309.jpg

Gad Saad is Professor of Marketing at Concordia University and author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct.

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