Psychological Research

, Volume 81, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Women gaze behaviour in assessing female bodies: the effects of clothing, body size, own body composition and body satisfaction

  • Amelia Cundall
  • Kun Guo
Original Article


Often with minimally clothed figures depicting extreme body sizes, previous studies have shown women tend to gaze at evolutionary determinants of attractiveness when viewing female bodies, possibly for self-evaluation purposes, and their gaze distribution is modulated by own body dissatisfaction level. To explore to what extent women’s body-viewing gaze behaviour is affected by clothing type, dress size, subjective measurements of regional body satisfaction and objective measurements of own body composition (e.g., chest size, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio), in this self-paced body attractiveness and body size judgement experiment, we compared healthy, young women’s gaze distributions when viewing female bodies in tight and loose clothing of different dress sizes. In contrast to tight clothing, loose clothing biased gaze away from the waist-hip to the leg region, and subsequently led to enhanced body attractiveness ratings and body size underestimation for larger female bodies, indicating the important role of clothing in mediating women’s body perception. When viewing preferred female bodies, women’s higher satisfaction of a specific body region was associated with an increased gaze towards neighbouring body areas, implying satisfaction might reduce the need for comparison of confident body parts; furthermore undesirable body composition measurements were correlated with a gaze avoidance process if the construct was less changeable (i.e. chest size) but a gaze comparison process if the region was more changeable (i.e. body mass index, dress size). Clearly, own body satisfaction and body composition measurements had an evident impact on women’s body-viewing gaze allocation, possibly through different cognitive processes.


Body Dissatisfaction Female Body Body Satisfaction Body Perception Clothing Type 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Buss, D. M. (2003). The evolution of desire: strategies of human mating. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  2. Blechert, J., Nickert, T., Caffier, D., & Tuschen-Caffier, B. (2009). Social comparison and its relation to body dissatisfaction in bulimia nervosa: evidence from eye movements. Psychosomatic Medicine, 71, 907–912.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bleske-Rechek, A., Kolb, C. M., Stern, A. S., Quigley, K., & Nelson, L. A. (2014). Face and body: independent predictors of women’s attractiveness. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 1355–1365.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Cho, A., & Lee, J. H. (2013). Body dissatisfaction levels and gender differences in attentional biases toward idealized bodies. Body Image, 10, 95–102.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Cornelissen, P. L., Hancock, P. J., Kiviniemi, V., George, H. R., & Tovée, M. J. (2009). Patterns of eye movements when male and female observers judge female attractiveness, body fat and waist-to-hip ratio. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30, 417–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crossley, K. L., Cornelissen, P. L., & Tovée, M. J. (2012). What is an attractive body? Using an interactive 3D program to create the ideal body for you and your partner. PLoS ONE, 7(11), e50601.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fiske, S. T. (2011). Envy up, scorn down: How status divides us. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Glauert, R., Rhodes, G., Fink, B., & Grammer, K. (2010). Body dissatisfaction and attentional bias to thin bodies. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 43, 42–49.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Guo, K., Mahmoodi, S., Robertson, R. G., & Young, M. P. (2006). Longer fixation duration while viewing face images. Experimental Brain Research, 171, 91–98.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Hahn, A. C., & Perrett, D. I. (2014). Neural and behavioral responses to attractiveness in adult and infant faces. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 46, 591–603.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Hall, C., Hogue, T., & Guo, K. (2011). Differential gaze behavior towards sexually preferred and non-preferred human figures. Journal of Sex Research, 48, 461–469.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hall, C. L., Hogue, T., & Guo, K. (2014). Sexual cognition guides viewing strategies to human figures. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 184–196.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Henss, R. (2000). Waist-to-hip ratio and female attractiveness. Evidence from photographic stimuli and methodological considerations. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 501–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Horndasch, S., Kratz, O., Holczinger, A., Heinrich, H., Hönig, F., Nöth, E., & Moll, G. H. (2012). “Looks do matter”—Visual attentional biases in adolescent girls with eating disorders viewing body images. Psychiatry Research, 198, 321–323.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Hughes, S. M., Harrison, M. A., & Gallup, G. G, Jr. (2004). Sex differences in mating strategies: mate guarding, infidelity and multiple concurrent sex partners. Sexualities, Evolution and Gender, 6, 3–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Janelle, C. M., Hausenblas, H. A., Ellis, R., Coombes, S. A., & Duley, A. R. (2009). The time course of attentional allocation while women high and low in body dissatisfaction view self and model physiques. Psychology and Health, 24, 351–366.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Jansen, A., Nederkoorn, C., & Mulkens, S. (2005). Selective visual attention for ugly and beautiful body parts in eating disorders. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43, 183–196.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Jasieńska, G., Ziomkiewicz, A., Ellison, P. T., Lipson, S. F., & Thune, I. (2004). Large breasts and narrow waists indicate high reproductive potential in women. Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 271, 1213–1217.CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. Jiang, M. Y., & Vartanian, L. R. (2012). Attention and memory biases toward body-related images among restrained eaters. Body Image, 9, 503–509.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Lykins, A. D., Meana, M., & Strauss, G. P. (2008). Sex differences in visual attention to erotic and non-erotic stimuli. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 219–228.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Lykins, A. D., Ferris, T., & Graham, C. A. (2014). Body region dissatisfaction predicts attention to body regions on other women. Body Image, 11, 404–408.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Mo, J. J., Cheung, K. W., Gledhill, L. J., Pollet, T. V., Boothroyd, L. G., & Tovée, M. J. (2013). Perceptions of female body size and shape in China, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom. Cross-Cultural Research, 48, 78–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Moody, A. (2012). Adult anthropometric measures, overweight and obesity. Health Survey for England. London: The Health and Social Care Information Centre.Google Scholar
  25. Nummenmaa, L., Hietanen, J. K., Santtila, P., & Hyönä, J. (2012). Gender and visibility of sexual cues influence eye movements while viewing faces and bodies. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 1439–1451.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. O’Connor, J. J. M., & Feinberg, D. R. (2012). The influence of facial masculinity and voicepitch on jealousy and perceptions of intrasexual rivalry. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 369–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pawlowski, B., & Dunbar, R. I. (1999). Impact of market value on human mate choice decisions. Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 266, 281–285.CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Rich-Edwards, J. W., Spiegelman, D., Garland, M., Hertzmark, E., Hunter, D. J., Colditz, G. A., & Manson, J. E. (2002). Physical activity, body mass index, and ovulatory disorder infertility. Epidemiology, 13, 184–190.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Roefs, A., Jansen, A., Moresi, S., Willems, P., van Grootel, S., & van der Borgh, A. (2008). Looking good. BMI, attractiveness bias and visual attention. Appetite, 51, 552–555.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Röhrbein, F., Goddard, P., Schneider, M., James, G., & Guo, K. (2015). How does image noise affect actual and predicted human gaze allocation in assessing image quality? Vision Research, 112, 11–25.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Rupp, H. A., & Wallen, K. (2007). Sex differences in viewing sexual stimuli: an eye-tracking study in men and women. Hormones and Behavior, 51, 524–533.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Singh, D. (1993). Adaptive significance of female physical attractiveness: role of waist-to-hip ratio. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 293–307.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Singh, D., & Singh, D. (2011). Shape and significance of feminine beauty: an evolutionary perspective. Sex Roles, 64, 723–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Singh, D., & Young, R. K. (1995). Body weight, waist-to-hip ratio, breasts, and hips: role in judgements of female attractiveness and desirability for relationships. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16, 483–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smith, K. L., Cornelissen, P. L., & Tovée, M. J. (2007). Color 3D bodies and judgements of human female attractiveness. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 48–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stice, E., & Shaw, H. E. (2002). Role of body dissatisfaction in the onset and maintenance of eating pathology: a synthesis of research findings. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 53, 985–993.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Tatler, B. W. (2007). The central fixation bias in scene viewing: Selecting an optimal viewing position independently of motor biases and image feature distributions. Journal of Vision, 7(14), 1–17.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Thompson, J. K., Heinberg, L., & Tantleff, S. (1991). The physical appearance comparison scale (pacs). The Behavior Therapist, 14, 174.Google Scholar
  39. Tovée, M. J., Reinhardt, S., Emery, J. L., & Cornelissen, P. L. (1998). Optimum body-mass index and maximum sexual attractiveness. The Lancet, 352, 548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Weeden, J., & Sabini, J. (2005). Physical attractiveness and health in western societies: a review. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 635–653.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Yarbus, A. (1967). Eye movements and vision. New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of LincolnLincolnUK

Personalised recommendations