Evolution and Human Behavior 29 (2008) 19 – 25 Women's body morphology and preferences for Boguslaw Pawlowskia,b,c,⁎, Grazyna Jasienskad,e aDepartment of Anthropology, University of Wroclaw, 50-138 Wroclaw, Poland bDepartamento de Ecologia Humana CINVESTAV-IPN, Unidad Mérida, 97310 Mérida, Mexico cInstitute of Anthropology, Polish Academy of Sciences, 50-951 Wroclaw, Poland dDepartment of Epidemiology and Population Studies, Collegium Medicum, Jagiellonian University, 31-531 Cracow, Poland eRadcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA Initial receipt 18 December 2006; final revision received 3 July 2007 Mate preferences are condition dependent (i.e., females in better biological condition might be more demanding with respect to fitness- relevant male traits). Such traits usually indicate male biological quality or ability to secure resources that could be invested in offspring. Herewe study female preferences for male resources, commitment, attractiveness, good sense of humor, and sensuality (when seeking both long-term and short-term partners) in relation to women's morphological traits such as height, weight, waist and hip girth, body mass index (BMI),and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). We show that preferences for resources and attractiveness do indeed depend on women's phenotype. Womenwith relatively lower WHR and BMI more strongly prefer resources in a potential long-term partner than those with higher WHR and BMI.
However, when controlling for age, place of residence, and whether they have had children, it is WHR (but not BMI) that influences femalepreference for resources and attractiveness. Women with higher WHR (those who, according to many studies, are considered as lessattractive) are more prone to prefer physical attractiveness in a potential long-term partner. Furthermore, despite commitment having receivedthe highest score in a long-term context, the preference for this trait in a potential partner was not related to women's body morphology. Wesuggest evolutionary and proximate explanations for such condition-dependent preferences.
2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Conditional preferences; Resources; Attractiveness; Commitment; WHR; BMI much attention to commitment and resources, while men areusually more focused on physical attractiveness Female and male preferences for a potential sexual partner differ in key criteria with strong evolutionary significance, which each sex uses when judging the quality The priorities of desired traits in a potential partner may of potential mates. Age, physical attractiveness, resources, change in relation to the sexual strategy that can be pursued.
commitment to relationship, or social skills seem to be For instance, when pursuing a short-term relationship (STR) strategy, in contrast to a long-term relationship (LTR), women may place more emphasis on physical attractiveness ). Furthermore, preferences may bedependent on a person's own characteristics, which wouldmean that they are condition dependent (). Individuals with more desirable mating ☆ This study was supported by a grant from the Polish State Committee characteristics can impose higher demands (varying accord- ing to what they have to offer) on potential partners.
⁎ Corresponding author. Department of Anthropology, University of Negotiation can then take place, aiming to E-mail address: [email protected] (B. Pawlowski).
own preferences in a way that allows the individual to find 1090-5138/$ – see front matter 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
B. Pawlowski, G. Jasienska / Evolution and Human Behavior 29 (2008) 19–25 the best-quality partner (relative to one's own mate value) when choosing a potential short-term or long-term partner.
in a relatively short time. For instance, physically attractive Preferences were established on the basis of prepared and younger women are, on the average, more demanding personal advertisements in which different traits were in terms of potential partner quality than less attractive and advertised. These traits were related to five dimensions of human mate choice decisions: resources possessed, com- tional preferences have been studied mainly with respect to mitment, attractiveness, sensuality, and sense of humor.
Sense of humor as a component of social skills can be treated as a proxy for social skills (the importance of compared the preferences of people who were never entertainment skills was highlighted by in his married with the preferences of those who were divorced, Scheherazade effect). We use here, therefore, the same and they found that age itself was a more important factor in influencing mate preferences than was experience of a , who also studied mate preferences using relatively previous marriage. Only a few studies have investigated short personal advertisements.50-138Since women with differences in mate preferences in dependence on the more attractive physical characteristics should be more physical characteristics of studied subjects. demanding for traits in potential partners that can increase showed that women with a more attractive waist-to- their own reproductive success (e.g., resources possessed or hip ratio (WHR) expressed greater attraction to healthier- attractiveness), we test here the following hypotheses: looking composite male faces, which suggests that they Hypothesis 1. Women with lower values of BMI and WHR were more demanding than women with a less attractive (i.e., considered more attractive) are more demanding with WHR. Preferences for differences in body height between respect to resources in potential partners, both for LTRs and partners depend on a person's height ().
In women, they may also depend on the sexual strategythat a woman pursues (long-term or short-term strategy) Hypothesis 2. More attractive women, compared to less attractive women, are more demanding with respect to the attractiveness of potential partners, both for LTRs and for Different condition-dependent preferences could have only evolved if females in better biological conditions were Furthermore, since male traits related to commitment are able to obtain better-quality males. Females with high mate very important for female reproductive success, we also value should be more demanding for traits in potential partners that, in given ecological conditions, assure better Hypothesis 3. Women should highly value commitment irrespective of their own physiques (without trading off for this trait), meaning that there should be no difference in the preference for this trait in dependence on the studied morphological traits of a woman. An alternative hypothesis symmetric and masculine male faces. In western societies, suggests that less attractive women (those with higher BMI and/or WHR) should be more concerned about this trait because their chances of getting another partner are lower and the risk that their partner will abandon them for another We also tested the relative contributions of WHR and BMI as determinants of women's condition-dependent ) were related to female attractiveness and/or her preferences. A trait that is more important for assessing potential mate value. There is, however, ongoing debate as female attractiveness should be related to a higher level of to which of these female traits is most important for assessing her mate value and which contributes the most to others'perception of her attractiveness (e.g., Althoughthe results of these studies indicate that BMI is more The women who participated in this study were subjects important than WHR for female body attractiveness as in a larger project on lifestyle variation and reproductive assessed by men and women, the perception of the function conducted in Poland from 2001 to 2003 ( attractiveness of this trait depends on culture and availability were recruited for the study through advertisements posted on newspapers and television programs. Only women who Here we test whether the human female morphology met the following criteria could take part in the study: described by her BMI and WHR is related to her preferences between 24 and 37 years of age (age-related variation in B. Pawlowski, G. Jasienska / Evolution and Human Behavior 29 (2008) 19–25 steroid hormones is low for women in their peak rank was 9+8+7+6) for RES, ATR, COM, and from 6 to 24 reproductive years; i.e., between 25 and 35–37 years; for HUM and SEX, which were present in only three advertisements, both for LTRs and STRs. Higher values without fertility problems; not taking any hormonal medica- meant a less desirable trait. To make the interpretation of the tion or hormonal contraception; and neither pregnant nor results easier, we transformed these variables into variables lactating during the last 6 months before recruitment. All in which higher values meant higher preference (for RES, women were of the same ethnic origin (all were Polish ATR, and COM, we subtracted the previously calculated citizens). Participants' body weight, body height, and waist value from 30; for HUM and SEX, we subtracted the and hip circumferences were measured by a professional previously calculated value from 24). The range of such anthropologist. WHR was calculated as the circumference obtained values was 0–20 for RES, ATR, and COM, and 0– of the waist divided by the circumference of the hip. The 18 for HUM and SEX (where higher values mean higher descriptive statistics for body measurements and two body morphology indices were as follows: height (mean=163.1 Altogether, 148 women (mean age=29.9 years; S.D.=3.37) cm; S.D.=6.39; range, 147.3–182.7); weight (mean=61.6 completed the questionnaire on preferences for a long-term partner. Four women did not complete the questionnaire on (mean=71.1 cm; S.D.=8.50; range, 58.0–103.6); hip girth preferences for a short-term partner (N=144; mean age=29.9 (mean=97.9 cm; S.D.=7.11; range, 81.5–122.8); WHR years; S.D.=3.38). There were 48 women who lived in rural (mean=0.725; S.D.=0.049; range, 0.64–0.88); and BMI areas (which are usually poorer than urban communities in (mean=23.18; S.D.=3.72; range, 17.2–38.0). According to Poland), and 100 were city dwellers. There was no difference Kolmogorov–Smirnov tests, all these variables do not deviate in age between rural and urban women (29.75 vs. 29.96 years; statistically from normal distribution.
t=−0.35, df=146, p=.7), but rural women, on the average, were The participants were given a two-page questionnaire.
shorter (160.8 vs. 164.2 cm; t=−3.01, pb.002), were heavier On each page, there were nine short personal advertise- (64.1 vs. 60.4 kg; t=2.06, pb.05), had higher BMI (24.8 vs.
ments, with an instruction to rank them from 1 to 9, where 22.4; t=3.79, pb.001), and had higher WHR (0.75 vs. 0.71; 1=most attractive and 9=least attractive (the one they t=5.46, pb.001). Among women, 73 had at least one child, would be least likely to respond to). One page referred to and 75 were childless. Mothers, on the average, were older choosing a partner for an LTR, and the other page referred (31.1 vs. 28.7 years; t=−4.67, pb.0001), were heavier (64.7 to choosing a partner for an STR. In order to avoid simple vs. 58.6 kg; t=−3.83, pb.001), had higher BMI (24.4 vs.
repetitions of preferences in long-term and short-term 22.0; t=−4.24, pb.001), and had higher WHR (0.74 vs. 0.71; contexts, the order of the nine short advertisements was t=−5.03, pb.001). There was no difference in height (162.9 different in tests for long-term and short-term contexts.
Neither the participants nor the investigators distributing Differences in preferences for the same trait (e.g., RES) the questionnaires were informed about the predictions of between a choice for a long-term partner (LTR) and a choice for a short-term partner (STR) were determined by In the text of the advertisements, fitness-relevant male t test. On the next step, we calculated partial correlations traits were grouped into five categories: resources between the categories of preferences and body measure- (“resourceful”/“RES”; in four ads); attractiveness (“hand- ments (height, weight, and waist and hip girths) and body some”/“ATR”; in four ads); commitment (“affectionate”/ shape indices (BMI and WHR) when controlling for age.
“COM”; in four ads); good sense of humor (as a proxy of The relationship between BMI and WHR, when controlled social skills/“HUM”; in three ads); and sensuality (“sen- for each other and for preferences, was tested in multiple sual”/“SEX”; in three ads). In each advertisement, there regression analyses separately for short-term and long-term were only two categories (for instance, “resourceful and choices. Due to the potential influence of age, place of sensual” or “handsome and with good sense of humor”). In residence, and parity on women's preferences and body this way, we obtained the following combinations (both for shape, age and two dummy variables [residence (urban/ long-term and short-term partners, but presented in a different rural) and having or not having a child] were added to the order): RES+SEX, COM+SEX, RES+HUM, RES+COM, model. All analyses were run using SPSS software The participants were expected to rank these advertise- ments from 1 (the first they would have chosen) to 9 (the least desirable). The sum of the ranks for each woman foreach category was calculated separately. Therefore, values The differences between LTR and STR appeared to be ranged from 10 (when a woman chose the first four statistically significant for each category of preference advertisements in which there was, e.g., RES, the total ). The biggest difference in preference between rank for this trait was: 1+2+3+4) to 30 (when such a trait was long-term and short-term strategies was for commitment present only in the last four least desirable choices, the total (t=16.56, pb.001). The most important trait for a long-term B. Pawlowski, G. Jasienska / Evolution and Human Behavior 29 (2008) 19–25 these analyses) neither improved the models nor changed Comparison between long-term and short-term preferences Place of residence and having or not having a child, which we included in our models, appeared also to have a significant impact on some women's preferences. Women living in the city prefer resources more than village dwellers, while village dwellers show higher preferences for male attractiveness and good sense of humor than city dwellers. Women with children prefer more sensual Only those women who answered both long-term and short-term partners in LTRs and resources in a short-term partner, questionnaires (N=144) were included.
and less sense of humor in the long-term context thanchildless women.
partner was commitment (COM; the t values for differences between COM and any of the other four categories werebetween 13.8 and 18.5; pb.001); for a short-term partner, it Our results confirmed only one part of Hypothesis 1— was attractiveness (ATR; the t values for differences Women with lower WHR (i.e., with more attractive WHR) between ATR and any of the other four categories were were more demanding for resources. BMI, another suggested indicator of attractiveness, had no relationship to women's We have also tested Spearman's correlations between five preferences, when controlling for age, place of residence, categories and found that preference for RES correlated and motherhood This indicates that female mate negatively with preference for COM (ρ=−0.23), ATR (ρ= choices are related to their WHR, but not to their BMI.
0.59), HUM (ρ=−0.32), and SEX (ρ=−0.29); COM Women with lower WHR have higher levels of estradiol in correlated negatively with ATR (ρ=−0.34); and HUM correlated negatively with SEX (ρ=−0.43) (in all cases, levels are positively related to probability of conception pb.005) in a long-term context; RES correlated negatively with COM (ρ=−0.60), ATR (ρ=−0.37), and HUM (ρ= women with lower WHR had a higher probability of 0.23); COM correlated negatively with ATR (ρ=−0.29) and SEX (ρ=−0.19); and HUM correlated negatively with SEX success rate for in vitro fertilization involving embryo (ρ=−0.61), but ATR correlated positively with SEX (ρ=0.18) (in all cases, pb.05) in a short-term context.
WHR then provides a reliable cue to fecundity and, Partial correlations between the strength of preference therefore, to higher reproductive potential. In contrast to and body measurements (height, weight, waist girth, and WHR, BMI does not show a linear relationship with ovarian hip girth) and body morphology indices (BMI and WHR), function. While women with very low or very high BMI when controlling for age, showed that, altogether, there often have reduced levels of ovarian estradiol and progester- are fewer statistically significant correlations for STR than for LTR Condition-dependent preferences are of pregnancy, there is no relationship between BMI and strongest for resources and attractiveness preferences.
WHR and waist circumference were most frequentlyassociated with women's preferences.
shows all statistically significant or marginally significant results from multiple regression analyses.
Partial correlations between five categories and different morphological Because of differences in BMI and WHR between rural and urban women, we included place of residence in the analysis. For the same reason, we also included mother-hood. All statistically significant effects were for LTR preferences (only the result for COM in the long-term context was not significant: R=.18, p=.4). Multiple R values indicate that models for RES and ATR explain more variance than models for good sense of humor or sensuality. There is no single conditional preference that depends on BMI (when controlling for other factors), and there are three conditional preferences (for resources in long-term and short-term contexts and for attractiveness in There was no conditional preference for height and hip size.
a long-term context) that are related to WHR. Allowing a nonlinear function with age (i.e., adding age squared to all B. Pawlowski, G. Jasienska / Evolution and Human Behavior 29 (2008) 19–25 The category of preference is the dependent variable; the independent variables are age, residence, parity, BMI, and WHR (only those categories of preferencesfor which the results were significant or marginally significant).
⁎ p=.051 (marginally significant).
levels of ovarian steroids in women within a normal range study. The lack of any conditional preferences for com- mitment (at least as far as female body morphology is concerned) and a very high preference for this trait seem Furthermore, our results suggest that Hypothesis 2— to confirm the evolutionary importance of this male trait that women with lower WHR and BMI show a higher preference for male attractiveness—should be rejected. We In the short-term context, we found only a few found that, in fact, the opposite is true. Women with correlations between women's preferences and their higher WHR expressed a higher preference for male morphology ). This indicates that preferences for attractiveness (there was no significant relationship with short-term partners are condition dependent to a lesser BMI). It can be hypothesized that women with higher extent than preferences for long-term partners. Our results, WHR (i.e., less attractive ones) may more intensively however, confirmed that male attractiveness is most “hunt for genes” related to attractiveness to increase their important in the short-term context (This trait is offspring's chance to be more attractive and, therefore, to generally treated as a cue of good genes; when pursuing a have a greater chance of reproductive success. short-term strategy (i.e., not expecting paternal investment as they would from a long-term partner), women usually attractive women prefer more attractive male faces. Such pay more attention to signs of good genes (i.e., attractive- conditional preference was expressed when the authors studied only differences in one dimension, namely, attractiveness. By contrast, in our results, attractiveness between women's preferences in the long-term and short- per se appeared to be less important than resources offered term contexts for all studied traits provide additional in terms of conditional preference. This might be related evidence of differences between those two sexual strategies to the fact that, in our studies, traits such as attractiveness had to compete with other male characteristics. According City dwellers' higher preference for resources probably reflects ecological aspects such as higher competitiveness male resources are more important than male attractive- and higher costs of living in big cities than in villages.
ness. In our study, general attractiveness (“handsomeness”) In conclusion, our study indicates that women's prefer- competed with resources. This may explain why we ences for male resources and attractiveness are dependent on observed a positive relationship between female body their body shape. WHR, rather than BMI, shows a relation- attractiveness and male resources, which are a necessity, ship with women's selectiveness for the resources of their and a negative relationship with male attractiveness. Only potential partners. As expected, commitment in an LTR is so when other traits are equal in importance to resources or important for women that we found the preference for this when other traits are not controlled in a study can male trait to be independent of women's body shape.
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