August 9, 2012
Men Seek Out Larger Women In Stressful Times
John Neumann for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
New research from England has concluded that men in stressful life situations tend to seek out larger women, despite traditionally seeking younger, thinner females under normal circumstances, writes Nick Crumpton for BBC News.
The study found that the group of men exposed to tasks that were designed to put them under pressure gave significantly higher ratings to the normal weight and overweight figures than the non-stressed group did, and that the stressed group generally had a broader range of figures they found attractive than the non-stressed group did.
Dr. Viren Swami and his colleague, Dr. Martin Tovee of Newcastle University, had 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. This new work 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,” Tovee explained. “If you´re living a far more stressful, subsistence lifestyle, you´re going to have higher stress levels.”
Researchers split 80 male volunteers into two groups, with half undertaking a series of stressful activities such as mock job interviews and mental arithmetic tests to make them feel tense. Both groups were then shown pictures of different female body shapes ranging from emaciated to obese, and asked to rate their attractiveness.
The results showed that men in the stressed group rated their “ideal” figure as significantly larger than those in the control group, reports Nick Collins for The Telegraph.
The largest figure deemed attractive by stressed men fell in the “overweight” category, while the upper limit of attractiveness for men from the non-stressed group was classified by the scale as a “normal” weight.
“The results provide the first experimental evidence that the experience of psychological stress shapes men´s judgements of female body size,” the researchers wrote.
“Men experiencing stress not only perceive a heavier female body size as maximally attractive but also more positively perceive heavier female body sizes, and have a wider range of body sizes considered physically attractive.”
The study, released in PLoS ONE journal concluded, “While there was no significant difference in the lower end of the range, the [stressed] group appear to have shifted the maximum cut-off for attractive bodies at higher BMIs (body mass indices).”