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Concept: Physical attractiveness


Alcohol consumption is known to be associated with risky sexual behaviours, but this relationship may be complex and bidirectional. We explored whether alcohol consumption leads to the consumer being rated as more attractive than sober individuals.

Concepts: Alcohol, Human sexual behavior, Alcoholic beverage, Physical attractiveness


Females often prefer to mate with high quality males, and one aspect of quality is physical performance. Although a preference for physically fitter males is therefore predicted, the relationship between attractiveness and performance has rarely been quantified. Here, I test for such a relationship in humans and ask whether variation in (endurance) performance is associated with variation in facial attractiveness within elite professional cyclists that finished the 2012 Tour de France. I show that riders that performed better were more attractive, and that this preference was strongest in women not using a hormonal contraceptive. Thereby, I show that, within this preselected but relatively homogeneous sample of the male population, facial attractiveness signals endurance performance. Provided that there is a relationship between performance-mediated attractiveness and reproductive success, this suggests that human endurance capacity has been subject to sexual selection in our evolutionary past.

Concepts: Human, Male, Reproduction, Female, Gender, Sex, Physical attractiveness, Tour de France


It has been suggested human female breast size may act as signal of fat reserves, which in turn indicates access to resources. Based on this perspective, two studies were conducted to test the hypothesis that men experiencing relative resource insecurity should perceive larger breast size as more physically attractive than men experiencing resource security. In Study 1, 266 men from three sites in Malaysia varying in relative socioeconomic status (high to low) rated a series of animated figures varying in breast size for physical attractiveness. Results showed that men from the low socioeconomic context rated larger breasts as more attractive than did men from the medium socioeconomic context, who in turn perceived larger breasts as attractive than men from a high socioeconomic context. Study 2 compared the breast size judgements of 66 hungry versus 58 satiated men within the same environmental context in Britain. Results showed that hungry men rated larger breasts as significantly more attractive than satiated men. Taken together, these studies provide evidence that resource security impacts upon men’s attractiveness ratings based on women’s breast size.

Concepts: Female, Estrogen, Lactation, Gender, Perception, Breast, Woman, Physical attractiveness


Despite the old adage not to ‘judge a book by its cover’, facial cues often guide first impressions and these first impressions guide our decisions. Literature suggests there are valid facial cues that assist us in assessing someone’s health or intelligence, but such cues are overshadowed by an ‘attractiveness halo’ whereby desirable attributions are preferentially ascribed to attractive people. The impact of the attractiveness halo effect on perceptions of academic performance in the classroom is concerning as this has shown to influence students' future performance. We investigated the limiting effects of the attractiveness halo on perceptions of actual academic performance in faces of 100 university students. Given the ambiguity and various perspectives on the definition of intelligence and the growing consensus on the importance of conscientiousness over intelligence in predicting actual academic performance, we also investigated whether perceived conscientiousness was a more accurate predictor of academic performance than perceived intelligence. Perceived conscientiousness was found to be a better predictor of actual academic performance when compared to perceived intelligence and perceived academic performance, and accuracy was improved when controlling for the influence of attractiveness on judgments. These findings emphasize the misleading effect of attractiveness on the accuracy of first impressions of competence, which can have serious consequences in areas such as education and hiring. The findings also have implications for future research investigating impression accuracy based on facial stimuli.

Concepts: Educational psychology, University, Physical attractiveness, Halo effect


Aspects of the female body may be attractive because they signal evolutionary fitness. Greater body fatness might reflect greater potential to survive famines, but individuals carrying larger fat stores may have poor health and lower fertility in non-famine conditions. A mathematical statistical model using epidemiological data linking fatness to fitness traits, predicted a peaked relationship between fatness and attractiveness (maximum at body mass index (BMI) = 22.8 to 24.8 depending on ethnicity and assumptions). Participants from three Caucasian populations (Austria, Lithuania and the UK), three Asian populations (China, Iran and Mauritius) and four African populations (Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal) rated attractiveness of a series of female images varying in fatness (BMI) and waist to hip ratio (WHR). There was an inverse linear relationship between physical attractiveness and body fatness or BMI in all populations. Lower body fat was more attractive, down to at least BMI = 19. There was no peak in the relationship over the range we studied in any population. WHR was a significant independent but less important factor, which was more important (greater r (2)) in African populations. Predictions based on the fitness model were not supported. Raters appeared to use body fat percentage (BF%) and BMI as markers of age. The covariance of BF% and BMI with age indicates that the role of body fatness alone, as a marker of attractiveness, has been overestimated.

Concepts: Nutrition, Obesity, Adipose tissue, Body mass index, Body fat percentage, Waist-hip ratio, Body shape, Physical attractiveness


Previous research has documented shifts in women’s attractions to their romantic partner and to men other than their partner across the ovulation cycle, contingent on the degree to which her partner displays hypothesized indicators of high-fitness genes. The current study set out to replicate and extend this finding. Forty-one couples in which the woman was naturally cycling participated. Female partners reported their feelings of in-pair attraction and extra-pair attraction on two occasions, once on a low-fertility day of the cycle and once on a high-fertility day of the cycle just prior to ovulation. Ovulation was confirmed using luteinizing hormone tests. We collected two measures of male partner sexual attractiveness. First, the women in the study rated their partner’s sexual attractiveness. Second, we photographed the partners and had the photos independently rated for attractiveness. Shifts in women’s in-pair attractions across the cycle were significantly moderated by women’s ratings of partner sexual attractiveness, such that the less sexually attractive women rated their partner, the less in-pair attraction they reported at high fertility compared with low fertility (partial r = .37, p(dir) = .01). Shifts in women’s extra-pair attractions across the cycle were significantly moderated by third-party ratings of partner attractiveness, such that the less attractive the partner was, the more extra-pair attraction women reported at high relative to low fertility (partial r = -.33, p(dir) = .03). In line with previous findings, we found support for the hypothesis that the degree to which a woman’s romantic partner displays indicators of high-fitness genes affects women’s attractions to their own partner and other men at high fertility.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Estrogen, Luteinizing hormone, Menstrual cycle, Woman, Ovulation, Sexuality, Physical attractiveness


There is accumulating evidence of condition-dependent mate choice in many species, that is, individual preferences varying in strength according to the condition of the chooser. In humans, for example, people with more attractive faces/bodies, and who are higher in sociosexuality, exhibit stronger preferences for attractive traits in opposite-sex faces/bodies. However, previous studies have tended to use only relatively simple, isolated measures of rater attractiveness. Here we use 3D body scanning technology to examine associations between strength of rater preferences for attractive traits in opposite-sex bodies, and raters' body shape, self-perceived attractiveness, and sociosexuality. For 118 raters and 80 stimuli models, we used a 3D scanner to extract body measurements associated with attractiveness (male waist-chest ratio [WCR], female waist-hip ratio [WHR], and volume-height index [VHI] in both sexes) and also measured rater self-perceived attractiveness and sociosexuality. As expected, WHR and VHI were important predictors of female body attractiveness, while WCR and VHI were important predictors of male body attractiveness. Results indicated that male rater sociosexuality scores were positively associated with strength of preference for attractive (low) VHI and attractive (low) WHR in female bodies. Moreover, male rater self-perceived attractiveness was positively associated with strength of preference for low VHI in female bodies. The only evidence of condition-dependent preferences in females was a positive association between attractive VHI in female raters and preferences for attractive (low) WCR in male bodies. No other significant associations were observed in either sex between aspects of rater body shape and strength of preferences for attractive opposite-sex body traits. These results suggest that among male raters, rater self-perceived attractiveness and sociosexuality are important predictors of preference strength for attractive opposite-sex body shapes, and that rater body traits -with the exception of VHI in female raters- may not be good predictors of these preferences in either sex.

Concepts: Male, Female, Sex, Gamete, Waist-hip ratio, Body shape, Female body shape, Physical attractiveness


Several theories about the origins of music have emphasized its biological and social functions, including in courtship. Music may act as a courtship display due to its capacity to vary in complexity and emotional content. Support for music’s reproductive function comes from the recent finding that only women in the fertile phase of the reproductive cycle prefer composers of complex melodies to composers of simple ones as short-term sexual partners, which is also in line with the ovulatory shift hypothesis. However, the precise mechanisms by which music may influence sexual attraction are unknown, specifically how music may interact with visual attractiveness cues and affect perception and behaviour in both genders. Using a crossmodal priming paradigm, we examined whether listening to music influences ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability of opposite-sex faces. We also tested whether misattribution of arousal or pleasantness underlies these effects, and explored whether sex differences and menstrual cycle phase may be moderators. Our sample comprised 64 women in the fertile or infertile phase (no hormonal contraception use) and 32 men, carefully matched for mood, relationship status, and musical preferences. Musical primes (25 s) varied in arousal and pleasantness, and targets were photos of faces with neutral expressions (2 s). Group-wise analyses indicated that women, but not men, gave significantly higher ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability after having listened to music than in the silent control condition. High-arousing, complex music yielded the largest effects, suggesting that music may affect human courtship behaviour through induced arousal, which calls for further studies on the mechanisms by which music affects sexual attraction in real-life social contexts.

Concepts: Birth control, Hormonal contraception, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Affect, Fertility, Menstrual cycle, Ovulation, Physical attractiveness


Entrepreneurship is a central path to job creation, economic growth, and prosperity. In the earliest stages of start-up business creation, the matching of entrepreneurial ventures to investors is critically important. The entrepreneur’s business proposition and previous experience are regarded as the main criteria for investment decisions. Our research, however, documents other critical criteria that investors use to make these decisions: the gender and physical attractiveness of the entrepreneurs themselves. Across a field setting (three entrepreneurial pitch competitions in the United States) and two experiments, we identify a profound and consistent gender gap in entrepreneur persuasiveness. Investors prefer pitches presented by male entrepreneurs compared with pitches made by female entrepreneurs, even when the content of the pitch is the same. This effect is moderated by male physical attractiveness: attractive males were particularly persuasive, whereas physical attractiveness did not matter among female entrepreneurs.

Concepts: Male, Gender, Physical attractiveness, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneur


Compelling evidence from many animal taxa indicates that male genitalia are often under postcopulatory sexual selection for characteristics that increase a male’s relative fertilization success. There could, however, also be direct precopulatory female mate choice based on male genital traits. Before clothing, the nonretractable human penis would have been conspicuous to potential mates. This observation has generated suggestions that human penis size partly evolved because of female choice. Here we show, based upon female assessment of digitally projected life-size, computer-generated images, that penis size interacts with body shape and height to determine male sexual attractiveness. Positive linear selection was detected for penis size, but the marginal increase in attractiveness eventually declined with greater penis size (i.e., quadratic selection). Penis size had a stronger effect on attractiveness in taller men than in shorter men. There was a similar increase in the positive effect of penis size on attractiveness with a more masculine body shape (i.e., greater shoulder-to-hip ratio). Surprisingly, larger penis size and greater height had almost equivalent positive effects on male attractiveness. Our results support the hypothesis that female mate choice could have driven the evolution of larger penises in humans. More broadly, our results show that precopulatory sexual selection can play a role in the evolution of genital traits.

Concepts: Sexual selection, Penis, Charles Darwin, Physical attractiveness, Sex organ, Human penis size, Secondary sex characteristic, Baculum