There are a number of factors that may alter what body size people prefer in a potential partner, such as the influence of the media. Now new research shows that also stress has effect on perception of an “ideal” body size. More specific, the study discovered that under stressful situations, men rate larger women as more attractive.
“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 told BBC News.
Researchers compared how stressed versus non-stressed men responded to pictures of female bodies varying from emaciated to obese. To simulate heightened stress, the “stressed group” was placed in interview and public speaking scenarios.
They found that the stressed group gave significantly higher ratings to the normal weight and overweight figures than the non-stressed group. In addition, the stressed group considered a broader range of figures attractive than the non-stressed group.
According to the authors, the results are consistent with the idea that people idealize mature morphological traits like heavier body size when they experience an environmental threat such as stress.
Photo via Jinni
Swami V,, & Tovee MJ (2012). The Impact of Psychological Stress on Men’s Judgements of Female Body Size. PLoS One : 10.1371/ journal.pone.0042593