, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 297-321

Body shape and women’s attractiveness

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This paper examines the role of body fat distribution as measured by waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) on the judgment of women’s physical attractiveness. It presents evidence that WHR is correlated with a woman’s reproductive endocrinological status and long-term health risk. Three studies were conducted to investigate whether humans have perceptual and cognitive mechanisms to utilize the WHR to infer attributes of women’s health, youthfulness, attractiveness, and reproductive capacity. College-age as well as older subjects of both sexes rank female figures with normal weight and low WHR as attractive and assign to them higher reproductive capability. The study concludes that WHR is a reliable and honest signal of a woman’s reproductive potential. The adaptive significance of body fat distribution and its role in mate selection is also discussed.

Devendra Singh, associate professor of psychology in the Behavioral Neuropsychology and Biopsychology Program at the University of Texas, enjoys teaching and research on food and alcohol addiction. His interest in the role of body fat distribution in perceptions of attractiveness has evolved into attempts to understand the puzzle of chronic dieting and body image dissatisfaction in normal-weight women.