It has been suggested that certain physical cues can be used to predict mate quality, and that sensitivity to these cues would therefore be adaptive. It follows that in environments where the optimal values for these features differ, attractiveness preferences should also be different. In this study, we show that there are striking differences in attractiveness preferences for female bodies between Thai observers in affluent, industrialised environments as compared to Thai observers in resource-poor, hill tribes. These differences can be explained by different local optima for survival and reproduction in the two environments. In industrialised societies, a high body mass is correlated with low health and low fertility, and the converse is true in rural Thailand. These results suggest that humans have mechanisms for acquiring norms of attractiveness that are highly plastic, and which allow them to adapt to different ecological conditions through learning.
Authors:Hannah R. George, Viren Swami, Piers L. Cornelissen, and Martin J. Tovée
Several studies have suggested that mate selection strategies alter with age, but the mechanism of this shift in mate strategy is unclear. Two possibilities suggest themselves. The first is that attractiveness preferences themselves alter, compensating for the changing mate value of the observer. Alternatively, the preferences may remain constant with observer age, but an individual may compensate for changes in their own relative attractiveness by consciously targeting different regions of the “attractiveness spectrum” as their own mate value changes. To address this question, we asked 142 Caucasian subjects (aged 18–87 years) to rate 50 photographs of women varying in lower body shape (the waist-hip ratio, or WHR), and overall body mass (body mass index, or BMI). We found no effects of observer age on attractiveness preferences. This suggests that the criteria for attractiveness do not alter with changing observer age, and instead that it is the strategies employed using this information that may change.