Could there be an evolutionary psychological reason why men find certain body weights attractive in women?
Tovée and his colleagues have suggested that there are advantages to using BMI as a basis for mate selection, as BMI provides a reliable cue to women’s health and reproductive potential, just as Singh argued in the case of WHR.
For example, obesity is usually associated with complications of pregnancy, menstrual irregularities and infertility, among other things. Severely underweight women also experience menstrual irregularies and non-ovulation, and anorexia nervosa is associated with higher miscarriage rates, higher premature birth rates and lower birth weights.
Tovée et al. (2002) have argued that the WHR is limited in its utility, which may explain why it is such a poor predictor of attractiveness ratings of women. They cite the example of anorexic women, who are amenorrhoiec (and therefore, have low reproductive potential), but who nevertheless could have WHRs akin to those of healthy women. In other words, a woman with an effective fertility of zero could have the same WHR as a woman with normal fertility.
In addition, there is evidence to suggest that the sexual dimorphism in the WHR may be highly variable, depending on multiple factors such as culture, environment and genetic inheritance. If these suggestions are substantiated, it would suggest that the WHR is an unreliable cue on which to base judgements of attractiveness.
Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that the WHR is an equivocal predictor of health and reproductive potential, contrary to the evidence Singh presented. For instance, some studies have shown that waist circumference alone is a better measure than WHR in determining overall health risks.
Two other studies observed that waist and hip circumference are independently related in opposite directions to risk factors such as high insulin levels. Not surprisingly, then, recent studies have highlighted the possibility that the waist and hips may have a differential effect on attractiveness ratings. When photographs of women with WHR manipulated either by hip or waist changes are used, attractiveness seems to be more influenced by changes in waist than hip size.
Video: Interpreting your Waist Measurement
Swami, A. & Furnham, A. (2008). The Psychology of Physical Attraction. New York: Routledge. Taylor & Francis and Routledge website www.tandf.co.uk Many Taylor & Francis and Routledge books are now available as eBookswww.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk
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