Uneven sex ratio of a population makes people more willing to look at you.
What does it take to look attractive for members of the opposite sex? The answers that are usually given to this question are as varied as the people seeking them.
A recent study, performed by researchers at the university of Glasgow and published in Biology Letters, adds yet another aspect to consider in the quest for looking sexy: the composition of the crowd you’re in.
Earlier modern work has shown that men will invest more resources in potential mates when there are a lot of guys and few women around. Basically, the rarer the women in a group, the more effort the men will expend in order to impress them.
In this new study, the authors investigated whether a sex-biased population (that is, more men or women than a 50/50 division) affected attractiveness. To do this, they recruited 100 heterosexual men and the same number of heterosexual women.
The group first had to rate male and female faces for attractiveness. Based on the results, the eight most attractive female faces and eight most attractive male faces were identified. Also, the least attractive and most average faces were identified.
Then, the real experiment could take place. Close to 600 men and women participated in the online survey. Either looking at a male-biased, female-biased or unbiased set of faces, the participants could increase or decrease the time a face was displayed by alternately pressing keys (7 and 8 for ‘hot’ faces, 1 and 2 for ‘not’).
The power of the crowd
By subtracting the ‘key press score’ for the least attractive faces from that of the most attractive ones, they were able to calculate the attractiveness motivation score (the extra effort that people were willing to expend to view sexy faces instead of less attractive ones).
After analysis of the data, the results indicated that:
- Opposite sex faces consistently scored higher. No surprise there, as the participants were all heterosexual.
- Scores for opposite sex faces were highest in the set of own sex biased photographs. In other words, males found women more attractive (or were at least willing to spend more effort looking at them) in photo sets with lots of guys. For women: vice versa, lots of girls meant more effort to look at the guys.
So, if you want to command the attention of potential mates: hang out with girls if you’re a guy and hang out with guys if you’re a girl.
Hahn AC, Fisher CI, DeBruine LM, & Jones BC (2014). Sex ratio influences the motivational salience of facial attractiveness. Biology letters, 10 (6) PMID: 24919700
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