Women direct their visual attention toward specific areas of men’s bodies when assessing attractiveness, according to research published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.
In the study, 90 women of Mexican American descent (aged 18–38) viewed color photographs of a young Caucasian man in his early 20s while researchers tracked their gaze using an eye tracking device. The researchers found that women directed most of their visual attention toward the upper part of the man’s body. Women first directed their gaze towards the chest followed by the head, midriff, and lower portions of the body.
Women were more likely to rate the man as attractive when he had a lower waist-to-chest ratio. In other words, men with larger, more muscular upper bodies were rated as more attractive. Whether the man had facial or chest hair did not appear to influence his attractiveness on average.
PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Ray Garza of Texas A&M University. Read his responses below:
PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?
Garza: I was interested in the topic because of my general interest in evolutionary reasons in predicting attraction. With that said, we noticed that there was limited information on men’s attraction by women during different stages of the menstrual cycle. Recent research (e.g., Dixson) who I cite repeatedly, has begun using eye tracking as a means to assess visual interest, and we have done the same. To our knowledge, our particular use of the eye tracker with cyclic changes is one of the first studies to investigate this phenomenon.
What should the average person take away from your study?
The average person should take away that there are unique cognitive mechanisms (mental modules) that are used when assessing the male body. Most notably, the chest is an area of interest that warrants significant attention. They should also take away that psychology is beginning to use more precise instruments in attraction research to quantifiably measure attention, instead of using self report measures that may miss information.
Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?
The main caveat is that we used self report measures of conceptive risk. That is, we asked women to determine what day of the menstrual cycle they were in, instead of using ovulation tests or hormonal measurements. Now, we have data from ovulation tests in which I will write the analysis soon.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
In psychology, replication is important. Therefore, I hope this research can and will be replicated by others.
The study, “An Eye Tracking Examination of Men’s Attractiveness by Conceptive Risk Women“, was also co-authored by Roberto R. Heredia and Anna B. Cieślicka.