Stressed men drawn to heavy women

 
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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.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 242.

    What I really think is that men want their female partners to mother them, and women want their male partners to father them. I.e. we all remember when we felt safe and all our needs met as little children!
    I wish now (I am 59) I had seen women as just other people with a similar set of challenges me, and not unfairly put them on a pedestal. I wrongly thought they were to solution to my life.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 241.

    So on this basis, the credit crunch and the resultant stress put on society will also cause an end to the annorexic image portrayed as a female ideal?

    I suppose if it means future Hollywood starlets look like Jayne Mansfield I won't be complaining.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 240.

    @23.
    windindrygrass
    "scientists seem obsessed with attributing all our behaviour to our experiences hundreds of thousands of years ago"
    ======================================================
    Guess what? It's part of Evolution, Scientists know what their talking about, Do you? Or do you not believe in Evolution?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 239.

    Breaking news - stressed men can't be bothered with the hassle of chasing\maintaining a 10 out of 10 stone cold fox, and so set their sights a little lower in the hope of an easier life are a more grateful bedroom buddy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 238.

    'scientists seem obsessed with attributing all our behaviour to our experiences hundreds of thousands of years ago.'

    Maybe because the scientific evidence suggests that it is? Your fuzzy feelings that somehow it shouldn't be so do not contribute a valid contribution under the scientific method.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 237.

    If ever there was a motivation for women to lose weight this must surely be it!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 236.

    Another BBC non story - A night out in a sleazy club and you get the super chubbies thinking they are hot stuff. Truth is a little extra poundage is alright, but if you Super Size a big Mac, you are just adding on calories, am I right?

    Makes about as much sense as this drivel story.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 235.

    To back up #217 people who are overweight are at higher risk of certain diseases, however they also have a slightly better survival rate when seriously ill (I work in a cancer unit) as they have a bit of reserve. Really thin people have nothing left when they're on chemo. Because of that people with a BMI 20-25 overall live no longer than BMI 26-30.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 234.

    My stress is relieved in the company of a cultured, educated, elegant, well spoken, well dressed, enigmatic lady who has no need of make-up, is free of tattoos, never wears a skirt over jeans/leggins, has excellent table manners, never shouts and considers other people.
    In short, not usually British.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 233.

    So, Do gay men like fat guys when their stressed?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 232.

    is it a case that heavier women are an easier, more receptive target?

  • Comment number 231.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 230.

    Since splitting up with my model like girlfriend back in March i have found that every girl i have 'chosen' since has been on the heavy side. This could be down to my stress levels having a psychological effect on my BMI preferences or maybe it is down to the fact i have drank a lot more since. If any university wants to study me to work out what on earth is going on then let me know,

  • Comment number 229.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 228.

    Does someone seriously think such knowledge in this particular subject holds value?

    Aside from that, is it not personal preference and down to the individual and their idiosyncrasies.

    Sometimes I fancy fillet steak, sometimes I fancy a burger. I may even want a burger when I can afford and am afforded fillet steak. If you live on fillet steak sometimes you want beans on toast!!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 227.

    Findings show... My husband must be really stressed lol

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 226.

    Re 125.alternateview: "Even our free will is part of evolution"
    Its a bit below the belt but...did you chose to write that or was it predestined by your genes? Seriously, determinism is just lazy thinking based on false logic.As you are a victim of the Darwin Delusion may I offer you my condolenses, and hope that one day you rediscover your God given freedom, self-determination and personhood.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 225.

    Its true when I was happy and unstressed I used to dream about jessica alba, natalie portman and so on. But since my last promotion work has realy been on top of me I have to admit I find Rosie O'Donnel and Anne Witicomb much more attractive now!

    Yeah I don't think this is the case somehow!!!!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 224.

    Ironic then for the larger lady (like me) that "the preference appears to be much heavier compared to environments where there's plenty of food".

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 223.

    When asked if I prefer fat legs or thin legs I always think somehting in between is better.

 

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