A new study suggests that there might be a correlation between males that are under stress in their lives and their attraction to women with a more curvaceous body type. British researchers from London and Newcastle published their study in the journal PLoS ONE and the research suggests that stress levels can actually affect the way men perceive and are attracted to potential partners.
Previous work has suggested that the experience of psychological stress may influence physical attractiveness ideals, but most evidence in favour of this hypothesis remains archival. The objective of this study was to experimentally investigate the impact of stress on men’s judgements of female body size.
The study involved studying 81 heterosexual, white men between the ages of 18 and 42, the BBC reports. The men were put into two groups. One group was put under the Trier Social Stress Test, in which they must act the part of a job applicant. The other group was put in a quiet waiting room.
Both groups were shown images of women with different body types and various body mass indexes, reports CNN. They were then asked to evaluate the women’s attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 9 and then asked to state the largest woman they found most attractive and the smallest woman they found most attractive.
While both groups rated underweight women the same, the men that had sustained more stress rated women with higher BMI on a much higher scale than men without the stress test.
Perhaps commentators are right about this one; the study doesn’t reveal much new information, nor does it conclusively provide any more information about exactly how and why people are attracted to other people in specific social settings. The wide range of variables only make this study one small avenue through which attraction is understood. Dr. Tovee, one of the researchers, commented to the BBC on how this study fits into the larger mass of work on perception, attraction and psychological well-being:
If you follow people moving from low-resource areas to higher resource-areas, you find their preferences shift over the course of about 18 months. In evolutionary psychology terms, you try to fit your preferences to what works best in a particular environment.
Perhaps the most enlightening aspect of the study and this larger subfield of enquiry is highlighting that perception, body size and aesthetics are a constantly shifting cultural and psychological phenomena that cannot be pinned down. Researchers stressed that even a change on the individual scale, like the conditions of this test on individual men, can alter attractions to different body types. We have to wonder what the results would be for heterosexual women evaluating men’s body types on a scale of 1 to 9.
Photo Credit: KoS