Can we believe judgements of human physical attractiveness?

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A key question in attractiveness studies is the validity of the reported results outside the narrow confines of the experimental paradigm used. Does the range of physical features in a set of pictures used to test attractiveness judgments predict the individual ratings of each body? Or does each stimulus have an attractiveness value independent of the range of attractiveness found in the image set of which it is a part? An additional problem is that because participants are often shown a relatively large array of images in a short space of time, this may produce perceptual biases which could cause a short-term shift in attractiveness preferences which are not usually found in real life mate choice decisions. To address this issue we asked 20 participants (10 male and 10 female) to judge the attractiveness of 20 digital photographs of female bodies. We then asked a different set of 400 people (who had not seen the body pictures) to judge the attractiveness of one of the bodies from the set (so each body was rated in isolation by 10 male and 10 female participants). We then compared the attractiveness judgement each body received when seen independently versus when it was seen within the context of a set of bodies. The results showed no significant difference between the two conditions which suggests that each body has an attractiveness value independent of the attractiveness of the other bodies with which it is viewed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-240
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number2
Early online date30 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


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