Correspondence | Published:

Beauty and the Bart Simpson effect

Nature volume 397, page 14 (07 January 1999) | Download Citation



Douglas Yu and Glenn Shepard Jr have shown that, although it is widespread, the phenomenon that men find pictures of women more attractive if the image has a low waist-to-hip ratio is not culturally invariants1.

This aesthetic does not extend to Matsigenka men, isolated deep in Manu Park, Peru. These men prefer thick-waisted women. A good thing, since that apparently describes healthy young Matsigenka women. The authors make the reasonable suggestion that the apparent invariance of preferences in earlier studies “may have only reflected the pervasiveness of western media”. Apparently, Matsigenka men do not share this aesthetic because “their degree of isolation is about as high as can be obtained today”.

I found this result so interesting that I prepared a lecture on it for my behaviour class. I searched the World-Wide Web for pictures of the Matsigenka (also spelled ‘Machiguenga’) and found something ironic and amusing. At a site maintained by E. Russo, who collaborates with Shepard, there is a photo of a Matsigenka couple, Mateo and Aleja2. Mateo is holding an ocelot. Aleja is wearing a Bart Simpson T-shirt. The Matsigenka's isolation may be “about as high as can be obtained today”, but they are not isolated enough to escape Bart Simpson. Luckily, it is not a Marge Simpson T-shirt. That would have suggested that the preference for thick-waisted women might also have been influenced by western media.


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  1. Kellogg Biological Station, Hickory Corners , Michigan 49060, USA

    • Thomas Getty


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