, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 267-276

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

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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.