Article

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 267-276

First online:

A Cross-Cultural Investigation of the Role of Foot Size in Physical Attractiveness

  • Daniel M. T. FesslerAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of CaliforniaDepartment of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles Email author 
  • , Daniel NettleAffiliated withDivision of Psychology, Brain and Behaviour, University of Newcastle
  • , Yalda AfsharAffiliated withIndependent scholar
  • , Isadora de Andrade PinheiroAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Universidade Federal da Bahia
  • , Alexander BolyanatzAffiliated withCore Program, Benedictine University
  • , Monique Borgerhoff MulderAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of California
  • , Mark CravalhoAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Universidade Federal da Bahia
  • , Tiara DelgadoAffiliated withIndependent documentary filmmaker
  • , Bozena GruzdAffiliated withIndependent scholar
    • , Melissa Oliveira CorreiaAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Universidade Federal da Bahia
    • , Daria KhaltourinaAffiliated withSchool of History, Political Science and Law, Russian State University for the Humanities
    • , Andrey KorotayevAffiliated withSchool of History, Political Science and Law, Russian State University for the Humanities
    • , Jocelyn MarrowAffiliated withCommittee on Human Development, University of Chicago
    • , Lucineide Santiago de SouzaAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Universidade Federal da Bahia
    • , Asta ZbarauskaiteAffiliated withIndependent scholar

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Abstract

Disparate cultural practices suggest that small foot size may contribute to female attractiveness. Two hypotheses potentially explain such a pattern. Sexual dimorphism in foot size may lead observers to view small feet as feminine and large feet as masculine. Alternately, because small female feet index both youth and nulliparity, evolution may have favored a male preference for this attribute in order to maximize returns on male reproductive investment. Whereas the observational hypothesis predicts symmetrical polarizing preferences, with small feet being preferred in women and large feet being preferred in men, the evolutionary hypothesis predicts asymmetrical preferences, with the average phenotype being preferred in men. Using line drawings that varied only in regard to relative foot size, we examined judgments of attractiveness in nine cultures. Small foot size was generally preferred for females, while average foot size was preferred for males. These results provide preliminary support for the hypothesis that humans possess an evolved preference for small feet in females.

Key Words

foot size physical attractiveness sexual selection sexual dimorphism