Singh1 - Copyright 1993 by the American Psychological...

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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1993, Vol. 65, No. 2, 293-307 Copyright 1993 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0022-3514/93/S3.00 Adaptive Significance of Female Physical Attractiveness: Role of Waist-to-Hip Ratio Devendra Singh Evidence is presented showing that body fat distribution as measured by waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is correlated with youthfulness, reproductive endocrinologic status, and long-term health risk in women. Three studies show that men judge women with low WHR as attractive. Study 1 documents that minor changes in WHRs of Miss America winners and Playboy playmates have occurred over the past 30-60 years. Study 2 shows that college-age men find femalefigures with low WHR more attractive, healthier, and of greater reproductive value thanfigures with a higher WHR. In Study 3, 25- to 85-year-old men were found to prefer female figures with lower WHR and assign them higher ratings of attractiveness and reproductive potential. It is suggested that WHR represents an important bodily feature associated with physical attractiveness as well as with health and repro- ductive potential. A hypothesis is proposed to explain how WHR influences female attractiveness and its role in mate selection. Evolutionary theories of human mate selection contend that both men and women select mating partners who enable them to enhance reproductive success. Differential reproductive con- ditions and physiological constraints in men and women, how- ever, induce different gender-specific sexual and reproductive strategies. In general, a woman can increase her reproductive success by choosing a high-status man who controls resources and, hence, can provide material security to successfully raise her offspring. A man, on the other hand, can increase his repro- ductive success by choosing a woman who is receptive, highly fecund, and has characteristics suggestive of being a successful mother. The reproductive value of a man, as a rule, can be easily assessed because high status is usually achieved through com- petition with other members of the social and economic hierar- chy. The reproductive value of a woman, however, cannot be as readily and accurately assessed because it is concealed. In the absence of any direct signals of ovulation or fertility, the man is forced to use indirect cues such as physical attractiveness to assess the reproductive value of the woman. It is the fundamen- tal assumption of all evolution-based theories of human mate selection that physical attractiveness is largely a reflection of reliable cues to a woman's reproductive success (Buss, 1987; Kenrick, 1989; Symons, 1979). Consistent with this assumption is that men assign much greater significance to "good looks" (Buss, 1987; Feingold, 1990; Townsend, 1989), and this appears to be a cross-cultural universal (Buss, 1989). I am grateful to Niels Dyrved, Debbie Lin, Jessica Lee, Rene Ton,
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Singh1 - Copyright 1993 by the American Psychological...

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