December 02, 2012

Quantifying an attractive body

An interesting study in which separate samples of young male and female students used software to "build" an attractive male and female body. It turns out that they both ended up creating quite similar physiques -with subtle differences- but while the ideal men's body had an "average" or even higher-than-average (accounting for mascularity) Body Mass Index, the ideal female's body had a lower BMI than almost all the women in the sample.

The figures on the left (A and B) were set by female participants, and on the right (C and D) by male ones. There is not much that is surprising in the paper, but here's an interesting finding:

An alternative explanation would be that the ideals are influenced by a common media environment which pushes them towards the same concept of the ideal body. However, there are subtle gender-specific differences in the media images seen in the magazines targeted at men and women. For the male body, magazines aimed at a male audience contain male models which are more muscular than those aimed at a female audience [31], [66]. For the female body, female models in women’s magazines are slimmer and have a smaller bust than female models in men’s magazines [53], [54]. This would suggest that there should be systematic differences between the ideals favoured by the two genders. 
This is partially what we find here. The male body selected by the male participants is indeed more muscular than the ideal male body chosen by the female participants. However, in the case of the ideal female body both men and women prefer a female body with the same low BMI, but the female participants prefer a larger bust size than the male participants. This directly contradicts what would be expected from the size and shape of the female models in their respective gender-specific media; the men should prefer a heavier female body than the women and a larger bust.

It might be interesting to repeat this experiment in a non-British sample as well as a sample that is not influenced by media. Anyone have an explanation to offer?

PLoS ONE 7(11): e50601. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050601

What Is an Attractive Body? Using an Interactive 3D Program to Create the Ideal Body for You and Your Partner

Kara L. Crossley

What is the ideal body size and shape that we want for ourselves and our partners? What are the important physical features in this ideal? And do both genders agree on what is an attractive body? To answer these questions we used a 3D interactive software system which allows our participants to produce a photorealistic, virtual male or female body. Forty female and forty male heterosexual Caucasian observers (females mean age 19.10 years, s.d. 1.01; 40 males mean age 19.84, s.d. 1.66) set their own ideal size and shape, and the size and shape of their ideal partner using the DAZ studio image manipulation programme. In this programme the shape and size of a 3D body can be altered along 94 independent dimensions, allowing each participant to create the exact size and shape of the body they want. The volume (and thus the weight assuming a standard density) and the circumference of the bust, waist and hips of these 3D models can then be measured. The ideal female body set by women (BMI = 18.9, WHR = 0.70, WCR = 0.67) was very similar to the ideal partner set by men, particularly in their BMI (BMI = 18.8, WHR = 0.73, WCR = 0.69). This was a lower BMI than the actual BMI of 39 of the 40 women. The ideal male body set by the men (BMI = 25.9, WHR = 0.87, WCR = 0.74) was very similar to the ideal partner set by the women (BMI = 24.5, WHR = 0.86, WCR = 0.77). This was a lower BMI than the actual BMI of roughly half of the men and a higher BMI than the other half. The results suggest a consistent preference for an ideal male and female body size and shape across both genders. The results also suggest that both BMI and torso shape are important components for the creation of the ideal body.



Mongoose said...

Maybe the moral is that magazines sell us what we want, because it's a lot easier than trying to make us want something different? I don't really buy into this idea that the media are brainwashing us into liking a different body type. And if you think about it, the "ideal" body type, or the "ideal" anything, really, would have to stand out from the average, otherwise why would it be "ideal"?

Beshara said...

I agree that media is affecting us. However, there exist a peak where revolution starts and I think this is what is happening with females at the moment. they are too stressed to maintain or try to achieve such a low BMI which the media is promoting so they started to revolutionize......they now prefer a higher BMI . what will happen next will be in my opinion that the media will start to pick the message and will adopt a different model of the "ideal" female body. Hope this is clear.