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Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?

Abstract

Why are some humans considered more beautiful than others? Theory suggests that sexually reproducing organisms should choose mates displaying characters indicative of high genotypic or phenotypic quality1. Attraction to beautiful individuals may therefore be an adaptation for choosing high-quality mates2,3,4,5,6. Culturally invariant standards of beauty in humans have been taken as evidence favouring such an adaptationist explanation of attraction3,4,5,6,7; however, if standards of beauty are instead no more than artefacts of culture, they should vary across cultures3,4,5,6. Here we show that male preference for women with a low waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is not culturally universal, as had previously been assumed.

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Figure 1: Female figures8 depicting two WHR classes (high 0.9 and low 0.7, referred to as 9 and 7) and three weight classes (‘overweight,’ ‘normal’ and ‘underweight’, referred to as O, N and U, respectively).
Figure 2: Contrast analyses of WHR preferences.

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Yu, D., Shepard, G. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?. Nature 396, 321–322 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1038/24512

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