Stressed men drawn to heavy women

 
Couple Do men seek the comfort of a "motherly" figure when put under pressure?

Related Stories

When placed under stressful situations, men rate larger women as more attractive, new research has shown.

British researchers found that men exposed to tasks that were designed to put them under pressure preferred a wider range of female body sizes.

They conclude that stress can act to alter judgments of potential partners.

The work by a team from London and Newcastle is published in the open access journal Plos One.

"There's a lot of literature suggesting that our BMI (body mass index) preferences are hard-wired, but that's probably not true," co-author Dr Martin Tovee, from Newcastle University, told BBC News.

Start Quote

Changing the media, changing your lifestyle, all these things can change what you think is the ideal body size”

End Quote Martin Tovee Newcastle University

Dr Tovee and his colleague, Dr Viren Swami, have previously researched what factors could alter BMI preferences, including publishing a paper in the British Journal of Psychology on the effect of hunger, and the influence of the media.

But through this new work they aimed to investigate whether known cross-cultural differences in body size preferences linked to stress were also mirrored in short-term stressful situations.

"If you look at environments where food is scarce, people's preferences for body size in a potential partner are shifted. [The preference] appears to be much heavier compared to environments where there's plenty of food and a much more relaxed atmosphere," he explained.

"If you're living a far more stressful, subsistence lifestyle, you're going to have higher stress levels."

To simulate heightened stress, a test group of men were placed in interview and public speaking scenarios and their BMI preferences compared against a control group of non-stressed men.

The results indicated that the change in "environmental conditions" led to a shift of weight preference towards heavier women with the men considering a wider range of body sizes attractive.

Flexible preferences

"These changes are comparatively minor in comparison to those you get between different [cross-cultural] environments. But they suggest certain factors which might combine with others and cause this shift," Dr Tovee said.

The research supports other work that has shown perceptions of physical attractiveness alter with levels of economic and physiological stress linked to lifestyle.

"If you follow people moving from low-resource areas to higher resource-areas, you find their preferences shift over the course of about 18 months. In evolutionary psychology terms, you try to fit your preferences to what works best in a particular environment," said Dr Tovee.

Moreover, the researchers were keen to emphasise how fluctuating environmental conditions could alter the popular perception of an "ideal" body size.

"There's a continual pushing down of the ideal, but this preference is flexible. Changing the media, changing your lifestyle, all these things can change what you think is the ideal body size," he said.

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
 

Page 7 of 18

 

More Science & Environment stories

RSS

Features

  • Krak des ChevaliersSitting targets

    How ancient treasures in Syria are being bombed to pieces


  • Mesut Ozil's tattoo reads "Only God can judge me"Ink explained

    Nine World Cup players' tattoos decoded, and one who refuses


  • Google sweetsName game

    Would Google have made it as BackRub?


  • Putting a coin in supermarket trolleyMinor annoyance

    Why are Morrisons getting rid of coin-locks on trolleys?


  • A graphic on the Human Events Facebook page comparing Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama.First ladies

    Why is Michelle Obama being compared to Jackie Kennedy?


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.