Heterosexual women prefer men who are taller and have broader shoulders, and consider them more masculine and better in fighting ability, according to new research published in Archives of Sexual Behavior. Additionally, while larger upper bodies boost attractive ratings for taller men, they don’t appear to have the same effect for shorter men.
“Previous research has looked into indicators of bodily attractiveness in men and women, and has shown that two characteristics of men’s height and upper body size contribute to their perception of attractiveness, masculinity, dominance, fighting ability, etc,” said study author Farid Pazhoohi, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia.
“One limitation of these previous research has been that they have looked into each trait separately and individually; however we know that perception of attractiveness is multivariate, meaning multiple characteristics and traits would contribute to our perception (we do not evaluate individuals bodily attractiveness based on a trait at a time, but there are multiple traits that when combined influence our perception of others).”
In four studies of 659 heterosexual women recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk, the researchers examined how men’s height and shoulder-to-hip ratio influenced perceptions of attractiveness, masculinity, and fighting ability. The participants viewed depictions of male bodies with heights ranging from 160 cm (5′3″) to 190 cm (6′3″), and three degrees of shoulder-to-hip ratio.
“We aimed to take the first step in investigating multivariate physical characteristics in men’s bodies on women’s attractiveness perception by combining 1) height and 2) upper body size (as is measured through shoulder-to-hip ratio),” Pazhoohi explained. “So we systematically explored the combined effects of men’s height and upper body size on perceptions of attractiveness, masculinity, and fighting ability.”
The researchers found that women tended to view taller men as more physically attractive, more masculine, and having a greater fighting ability. The same was generally true of broader shouldered men.
“Our results showed that ‘women’s perceptions of males’ attractiveness, masculinity, and fighting ability were influenced by, and interacted with, height and SHR,'” Pazhoohi told PsyPost. “In general women preferred taller and broader shouldered men, and in particular when these two traits were presented in combination (or interacted together). We suggested that ‘when investigating women’s preference for men’s bodily attractiveness, masculinity and fighting ability, future research should consider a more comprehensive integration of physical characteristics.'”
The first three studies used black and white silhouettes as stimuli. The first two studies also included female stimuli to obscure the purpose of the research. The fourth study used colorized and more realistic renderings of human bodies.
Interestingly, the fourth study provided evidence that women did not consider broader shoulders to be more appealing on short men. Higher shoulder-to-hip ratios were rated as more attractive in taller men but did not influence attractiveness ratings for shorter men.
“Another contribution of this paper is that across four studies we tried to see if perception of men’s body size/shape is influenced by experimental design and ecological validity of the stimuli,” Pazhoohi explained. “We found that the interacting effects of height and SHR emerged when participants observed a combination of both traits rather than a single trait, and where we used the stimuli with more ecological validity (renders of avatars in color than silhouettes). These are experimental notes that researchers can consider in their designs in their future research.”
The study, “The Interacting Effects of Height and Shoulder‑to‑Hip Ratio on Perceptions of Attractiveness, Masculinity, and Fighting Ability: Experimental Design and Ecological Validity Considerations“, was authored by Farid Pazhoohi, Ray Garza, and Alan Kingstone.