May 31, 2013
Rural Indonesian People Have Big Foot Fetish
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A new study appearing in the journal Human Nature suggests that a group living in rural Indonesia has a bit of a big foot fetish.
The Indonesia group's preference for big feet is linked to the society's ecological context and limited exposure to Western media.
"Universal features of physical attractiveness are typically thought to suggest that mate choice criteria are hard-wired in humans and that they evolved tens of thousands of years ago," Kushnick said. "This new research supports that idea that cultural transmission of mate preferences allows humans to adapt to local environments, and this may trump hard-wired preferences."
Kushnick showed 159 Karo Batak adults five drawings of barefoot woman with her long hair pulled back and dressed in a shirt and a skirt reaching mid-calf. The drawings were all the same except the differences in foot size. He found that both male and female participants in the study said the woman with the largest feet was the most attractive, and the one with the smallest feet was least attractive.
Previous studies have found that people in Iran, Lithuania, Brazil, the US and India prefer women who have small feet, while those from Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania prefer women with big feet. Kushnick was interested in finding out why small-foot preferences were not universal.
The researcher compared his results with earlier studies and looked for an association between societies' foot-size preferences and three potential causes, including patriarchal values, rural versus urban ecology, and exposure to Western media. He found that both rural ecology and less exposure to Western media showed a statistical association with the preference for women with larger feet, whereas small feet were more desirable in urban societies with more exposure to Western media.
"My analyses support the notion that culturally transmitted preferences that allow people to adapt to local environments can trump evolved preferences," Kushnick said. "Cultural and social influences play a stronger role in mate choice than some evolutionary psychologists are willing to accept."
He found that Karo Batak residents prefer women with big feet because it shows strength and greater productivity in the rice fields. This study shows how humans continue to evolve.
"The study adds more evidence of the potential for culture to drive human evolution," Kushnick said. "Since mating preferences drive sexual selection, it is possible that male-female differences in relative foot size are the product of recent evolution."
Any Karo Batak women who are unhappy with their feet could try and sucker a man into getting her pregnant. Scientists have long known that pregnant women's feet tend to grow, and researchers writing in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation got to the bottom of it back in March. They found that first-time mothers saw the most significant changes in their foot size. However, this change could help explain why women are at a higher risk for pain or arthritis in their feet, knees, hips and spines, according to the study.
Image 2 (below): A study volunteer judges foot sizes in an experiment similar to the one described in this study. Credit: Geoff Kushnick, University of Washington