October 10, 2008 at 2:41 am #29302
note: science can only measure the physical features and responses of the sexes.I find this piece quite detailed in revealing averages, but ultimately very superficial. It ignores smell, the most powerful sense, and it ignores soul attraction, the mysterious need to complete something with somebody. I acknowledge the physical factors are also important, it is the jing level. But let’s say it is one-third of the game…..Michael
SEX, SCIENCE AND THE ART OF SEDUCTION:
WHAT REALLY MAKES US ATTRACTIVE TO THE OPPOSITE SEX
By Jena Pincott
October 8, 2008
Humans have long been baffled by just what shapes sexual attraction. Why do
we find some people beautiful and others not? And is there anything we can
do to make ourselves more attractive?
In her fascinating new book, Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?, American
science journalist Jena Pincott collates scores of academic studies to
reveal what really makes us attractive to the opposite sex.
What makes a face beautiful?
What magic do the beautiful have that most of us lack? Neuroscientists,
psychologists and anthropologists have all taken a stab at deconstructing
Overall, they¹ve focused on three measures: averageness (how closely the
size and shape of facial features match the average), symmetry (how closely
the two sides of the face match) and sexual dimorphism (how feminine or
masculine the face appears).
We¹re talking about only facial shape and features here, not age, expression
You might think the first one, averageness, seems odd. By definition, isn¹t
average just average? But most of us don¹t have average features. When
compared to the average, your eyes may be too wide or close-set, your
eyebrows uneven or your nose too sharp.
When a computer-generated composite is created by merging a whole series of
faces together, it¹s possible to see a single face which could be described
as the average of all the other faces (with the average-sized nose and the
average-sized jaw and so on).
In academic tests, judges rate that average face as more attractive than any
one of the faces that constitute it. The more faces that are blended in the
composite, the more attractive the result.
So what draws us all to the middle? Researchers have several theories. For
one, familiarity breeds attraction: we learn to identify patterns in the
faces we see around us, and that means that medium — or average —
proportions would be more familiar to us than distinctive features such as
potato noses, wide-set eyes, underbites and chipmunk cheeks.
That, in turn, makes them more attractive.
Conversely, distinctive and unattractive features may subconsciously warn us
of the presence of undesirable, recessive genes.
Looking at portraits of the inbred Habsburgs, you can see how members of one
of the ruling houses of Europe shared the same DNA to the extent that their
looks and health suffered — it shows up in their protruding lower lips and
Aside from these inbuilt adult reactions to beauty, studies with babies also
suggest that beauty detectors¹ are hard-wired in our brains from birth.
Infants as young as one day old, when exposed simultaneously to beautiful
and unattractive faces, consistently gaze longer at the attractive faces.
The neural mechanism that enables babies to distinguish beautiful from plain
is unknown, but it is widely agreed that it exists. People from different
cultures also generally agree on what faces are attractive or not.
Symmetry, the second measure of beauty, can make or break the beauty
equation. Look at actress Gwyneth Paltrow for an example of a beautiful but
slightly atypical face. Her mouth is wider than average, and so is the space
between her eyes. On another person these distinctive features might not be
so stunning, but Gwyneth¹s face happens to be perfectly symmetrical.
This is also true of supermodels Kate Moss, Christy Turlington and Cindy
Crawford (minus the mole). Not all beautiful faces are symmetrical, and not
all symmetrical faces are beautiful, but symmetry often plays a role in
Like averageness, symmetry suggests a certain physical robustness. If you
grow up with symmetrical features — despite risk of disease, genetic
mutations, starvation, pollution and parasites — there¹s a better chance
you¹re fit and healthy and your body can ward off infection.
Researchers at the University of New Mexico measured the chin length, jaws,
lip width, eye width and height of more than 400 men and women to determine
their facial symmetry.
Comparing the results against each participant¹s health records, they found
that people with the most symmetrical features were healthier (i.e. had
shorter and fewer respiratory infections and took fewer antibiotics).
Masculinity or femininity (sexual dimorphism) is the third measure of
attractiveness. In men, the hormone testosterone is behind prominent
jawlines and cheekbones, thicker brow ridges, larger noses, smaller eyes,
thinner lips, facial hair and a relatively long lower half of the face.
Women are attracted to rugged, masculine faces because they signal strong
immune systems and, potentially, high fertility.
Oestrogen is behind the beauty¹ that men perceive in female faces. It
plumps out women¹s lips and skin and produces smaller and pointier chins,
smaller noses, rounder cheekbones, eyebrows high above the eyes and a bottom
of the face that is narrower than the top half.
Why big breasts ARE best
Nobody has a definitive answer as to why women¹s breasts are so sexy and get
so big, but all theories have something to do with fertility.
Evolutionary psychologists suggest that cleavage serves as a sort of proxy
for the swollen rumps that other female primates get in heat.
Freudian psychologists offer theories about men¹s Oedipus complex: they¹re
always looking for a mother figure (literally). Anthropologists believe that
women developed larger, permanent breasts as our species adapted to a
harsher environment and became bigger-brained and bipedal.
By storing fat reserves in their chests (and thighs and bottoms) year-round,
even when not nursing, our foremothers survived the elements and the rigours
of pregnancy, birth and child-rearing.
Large breasts may be a sign of increased fertility, which could help explain
why so many men think bigger busts are better: the fat that accumulates in
your chest (as well as your bottom, thighs and hips) does so under the
influence of the hormone oestrogen, which also affects your ability to
A study by Harvard epidemiologist Grazyna Jasienska found that full-figured
women are roughly three times as likely to get pregnant as women with other
body types. (To qualify in the study, the circumference of your torso around
your breasts would have to be at least 20 per cent larger than it is under
Breasts are an advertisement of age, health and good genes, which is why
anthropologists think they¹re crucial to sexual selection even in cultures
that don¹t eroticise the chest any more than the face.
Wrinkles? Don’t despair
Think those fine lines and wrinkles make you less attractive to the opposite
sex? Not necessarily.
In scientific tests, men gave low attractiveness ratings to older-looking
faces when asked who they saw as a potential partner for a short-term
No surprise here — men are biased towards youthful-looking women with
childbearing years ahead, and they generally marry women who are younger.
However, intriguingly, if a man¹s mother was over 30 when he was born, he
was likely to be more tolerant of ageing in women¹s faces in the context of
a long-term relationship.
Only the mother¹s age at his birth, not the father¹s, influenced a man¹s
acceptance of older looking women¹s faces. This may have to do with sexual
inprinting, the tendency for a person to seek a mate who resembles his or
her opposite-sex parent. (This means if you¹re trying to gauge a man¹s
tolerance to ageing faces, it doesn¹t hurt to ask him how old Mum was when
he was born.)
Further research will reveal whether men with older mums more often marry
older women. There¹s evidence that women with older dads more often marry
Sorry girls, but gentlemen DO prefer blondes
It’s a cliche — but research shows that yes, in most of Europe and America,
there does seem to be a male preference for blonde women. According to
Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost, this was true during the Ice Age when,
because of the extreme dangers associated with hunting for food, there were
far fewer men than women.
Although there was a surfeit of females, the men who were around were unable
to take on more than one wife¹ because of the daily challenges of
supporting a family, and they often chose a blonde.
Fair hair then was very rare and stood out in a sea of brunettes. And as we
know from walking into any shop, visual merchandising is the key to success.
For ancestral Europeans, blonde hair was the equivalent of brilliant, shiny
packaging. Modern men are attracted to blonde hair for the same reason: it¹s
The human eye is attracted to light, bright colours, so blondes stand out
more than brunettes and even redheads. Blonde hair is also associated with
youth and fertility, as hair colour naturally darkens with age.
According to a study by Polish psychologists, men clearly prefer blondes
when judging the appearance of women older than 25. Hair colours are more
desirable when they¹re uncommon, too. In most countries, blonde is usually
the unique and the most eye-catching — but not everywhere. In Scandinavia,
where blondes are commonplace, men often say they prefer brunettes.
Likewise, when researchers at the University of Washington asked male
subjects to choose which woman they¹d desire as a partner among selections
of brunettes and blondes, the preference for a brunette increased in
proportion to the rarity of brunettes in the selection. (However, if a shade
is so rare that it¹s virtually nonexistent, such as blonde in Africa and
Asia, men may not necessarily prefer it.)
Another factor that can play a part in a man¹s hair colour preference is
sexual imprinting — which means that a man has a bias towards a mate who
resembles his parents.
A man with a dark-haired mother might be more likely to choose a brunette
for a long-term relationship.
How heels can heighten your appeal
Wearing heels makes you statuesque. Feet look smaller and your gait is more
refined. Your calves and shins are tensed and elongated. Your posture is
Anatomically speaking, in heels you¹re doing what chimps do when they¹re in
heat: standing on tiptoe, arching your back and making your bottom stick
The movement of your lower limbs becomes more sensual. It¹s hard for others
not to notice the sway of your hips, the thrust of your breasts, the incline
of your pelvis. High-heeled shoes adjust women¹s body proportions to come
closer to perceived ideals, too (in Western countries, at least).
Researchers at the University of Wroclaw in Poland asked more than 200 men
and women to rate the attractiveness of diagrams of seven men and seven
women with varying leg lengths.
Both sexes agreed that a leg length that is 5 per cent longer than the norm
for a person¹s height is ideal. This means that if the average leg length of
a 5ft 5in woman is 30in, as measured from the sole of the foot to the crease
where the thigh meets the pelvis, a woman this height could make her legs
look 5 per cent longer by wearing 1.5in heels.
In the study, legs that were 10 per cent longer than average were also
considered sexy, but legs 15per cent longer were not. Generally speaking, if
you¹re between 5ft 4in and 5ft 8in, heels up to 3-3.5in will flatter your
proportions — anything higher starts to look odd.
Also, focusing on proportions, a study at University College in London found
the ideal female figure had legs exactly 1.4 times the length of the upper
body, which is the legtotorso ratio of Nicole Kidman, Naomi Campbell and
most other supermodels.
When 5ft 11in Kidman and 5ft 7in Tom Cruise divorced, she said with palpable
relief: Now I can wear heels.¹ The truth is, she doesn¹t need them.
Secrets of the perfect body
From a hundred feet away, a man can¹t see your beautiful eyes or your
luscious lips. He can¹t hear your witty jokes or touch your dewy skin.
However, by merely glancing at your figure he¹ll glean a lot about your age,
health and reproductive potential. That¹s because he can instantly assess
your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR).
A woman¹s waist-to-hip ratio is one of the most important cues in sexual
attraction. The smaller your waist is in proportion to your hips, the
curvier you appear.
The golden ratio¹ is said to be around 0.7 — that is, a waist that is
seven-tenths the width of the hips, regardless of weight.
That¹s the approximate WHR of female figurines unearthed from prehistoric
sites, of statues of the fertility goddess Venus, of the wasp-waisted
dancing girls in ancient Hindu paintings, of corseted Victorian ladies and
even of beauties such as Twiggy, Kate Moss and Marilyn Monroe. (Yes, slender
and buxom women can have the same WHR.)
… and why women look up to some men
Size matters to women. In a study of 10,000 men, the ideal male height was
6ft. That¹s significantly taller than 5ft 9in, the height of the average man
in North America and Europe.
Men 6ft or taller are more likely to have children than the average-height
man, and are also more likely to remarry in middle age and have a second
family with a younger wife.
In fewer than 1 per cent of marriages is a woman taller than her husband. In
short, we want men so tall we look up to them even when we¹re wearing our
stilettos. (It¹s mutual: men prefer shorter partners.) This is happy news
for tall men, who enjoy other advantages. In some primordial way, height
translates into social stature, even in jobs where you¹d think brainpower
Taller people are seen as more intelligent, more dominant and better
leaders. They¹re also better-paid.
But when wealth or power compensates, short guys aren¹t shortchanged. Look
at Carla Bruni and her 5ft 5in spouse Nicolas Sarkozy.October 11, 2008 at 7:24 pm #29303
Another study with a more limited population determined that fertility definitely has an influence on attractiveness.
This study took place at a gentleman’s club and tracked tips for lap dances. It determined that dancers earned an average of $70/hr during their peak fertility period, $35/hr while mestruating, and $50/hr other times.
Dancers on birth control showed no variation – they averaged $35/hr.
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