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Preferred women's waist-to-hip ratio variation over the last 2,500 years.

Bovet J, Raymond M - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: However, it is unclear whether the preferred WHR in western countries reflects a universal ideal, as geographic variation in non-western areas has been found, and discordances about its temporal consistency remain in the literature.We found that the ideal WHR has changed over time in western societies: it was constant during almost a millennium in antiquity (from 500 BCE to 400 CE) and has decreased from the 15th century to the present.The potential adaptive explanations for these results are discussed.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Institute of Evolutionary Sciences, University of Montpellier, CNRS, IRD, EPHE, CC 065, Place Eugène Bataillon, Montpellier, France.

ABSTRACT
The ratio between the body circumference at the waist and the hips (or WHR) is a secondary sexual trait that is unique to humans and is well known to influence men's mate preferences. Because a woman's WHR also provides information about her age, health and fertility, men's preference concerning this physical feature may possibly be a cognitive adaptation selected in the human lineage. However, it is unclear whether the preferred WHR in western countries reflects a universal ideal, as geographic variation in non-western areas has been found, and discordances about its temporal consistency remain in the literature. We analyzed the WHR of women considered as ideally beautiful who were depicted in western artworks from 500 BCE to the present. These vestiges of the past feminine ideal were then compared to more recent symbols of beauty: Playboy models and winners of several Miss pageants from 1920 to 2014. We found that the ideal WHR has changed over time in western societies: it was constant during almost a millennium in antiquity (from 500 BCE to 400 CE) and has decreased from the 15th century to the present. Then, based on Playboy models and Miss pageants winners, this decrease appears to slow down or even reverse during the second half of the 20th century. The universality of an ideal WHR is thus challenged, and historical changes in western societies could have caused these variations in men's preferences. The potential adaptive explanations for these results are discussed.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

A typical screen shot during the evaluation of the women’s silhouettes in the artworks by the participants in Study 1.An online test was developed to randomly present artworks to raters. On the right part of the screen, 12 drawn figures of women were displayed, representing 3 different weight categories and 4 WHRs within each weight category (from Singh [21]). For each artwork, the rater had to click on the figure that most closely resembled the woman depicted on the artwork according to the rater. A given rater had 17 distinct artworks to assess. Three artworks, which were randomly chosen among those previously observed, were presented again at the end to estimate judgment reliability.
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pone.0123284.g001: A typical screen shot during the evaluation of the women’s silhouettes in the artworks by the participants in Study 1.An online test was developed to randomly present artworks to raters. On the right part of the screen, 12 drawn figures of women were displayed, representing 3 different weight categories and 4 WHRs within each weight category (from Singh [21]). For each artwork, the rater had to click on the figure that most closely resembled the woman depicted on the artwork according to the rater. A given rater had 17 distinct artworks to assess. Three artworks, which were randomly chosen among those previously observed, were presented again at the end to estimate judgment reliability.

Mentions: Procedure. An online test was developed to randomly present artworks to raters. On the right part of the screen, 12 drawn figures of women representing 3 different body weight categories (underweight, normal weight and overweight) and 4 WHRs within each weight category were displayed (the figures are from Singh [21], see Fig 1). For each artwork, the rater had to click on the figure that most closely resembled the woman depicted on the artwork. A given rater had 17 distinct artworks to assess, which were randomly chosen among the whole dataset. Then, three artworks, which were randomly chosen among the 17 previously observed, were presented again at the end to estimate judgment reliability. A judgment is considered as unreliable if, for the same artwork, the second judgment differs from the first one of more than one figure in each dimension (WHR or weight). Because the task could require some time to be completely understood by the raters, the 4 first judgments of each rater were not included in the analyses. Volunteer raters were unaware of the purpose of the study when assessing artworks. Public advertisements were dispatched in local stores and social networks. These advertisements contained the principle of the test (rating artworks), and a website address. People went to the website on their own will if they wanted to participate. For each rater, only sex, age and nationality were collected. This information could not allow a personal identification (identifying information such as name or IP address were not collected). The content of this experiment (an online evaluation of artworks), didn’t required any specific authorization from an ethics committee. Written consent was not required from the participants for an online survey (their volunteer participation on the web site is equivalent to a tacit consent). Moreover, participants could confirm their willingness to participate to our study through a question displayed at the end of the online test (and only those that agreed where considered for further analyses).


Preferred women's waist-to-hip ratio variation over the last 2,500 years.

Bovet J, Raymond M - PLoS ONE (2015)

A typical screen shot during the evaluation of the women’s silhouettes in the artworks by the participants in Study 1.An online test was developed to randomly present artworks to raters. On the right part of the screen, 12 drawn figures of women were displayed, representing 3 different weight categories and 4 WHRs within each weight category (from Singh [21]). For each artwork, the rater had to click on the figure that most closely resembled the woman depicted on the artwork according to the rater. A given rater had 17 distinct artworks to assess. Three artworks, which were randomly chosen among those previously observed, were presented again at the end to estimate judgment reliability.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4401783&req=5

pone.0123284.g001: A typical screen shot during the evaluation of the women’s silhouettes in the artworks by the participants in Study 1.An online test was developed to randomly present artworks to raters. On the right part of the screen, 12 drawn figures of women were displayed, representing 3 different weight categories and 4 WHRs within each weight category (from Singh [21]). For each artwork, the rater had to click on the figure that most closely resembled the woman depicted on the artwork according to the rater. A given rater had 17 distinct artworks to assess. Three artworks, which were randomly chosen among those previously observed, were presented again at the end to estimate judgment reliability.
Mentions: Procedure. An online test was developed to randomly present artworks to raters. On the right part of the screen, 12 drawn figures of women representing 3 different body weight categories (underweight, normal weight and overweight) and 4 WHRs within each weight category were displayed (the figures are from Singh [21], see Fig 1). For each artwork, the rater had to click on the figure that most closely resembled the woman depicted on the artwork. A given rater had 17 distinct artworks to assess, which were randomly chosen among the whole dataset. Then, three artworks, which were randomly chosen among the 17 previously observed, were presented again at the end to estimate judgment reliability. A judgment is considered as unreliable if, for the same artwork, the second judgment differs from the first one of more than one figure in each dimension (WHR or weight). Because the task could require some time to be completely understood by the raters, the 4 first judgments of each rater were not included in the analyses. Volunteer raters were unaware of the purpose of the study when assessing artworks. Public advertisements were dispatched in local stores and social networks. These advertisements contained the principle of the test (rating artworks), and a website address. People went to the website on their own will if they wanted to participate. For each rater, only sex, age and nationality were collected. This information could not allow a personal identification (identifying information such as name or IP address were not collected). The content of this experiment (an online evaluation of artworks), didn’t required any specific authorization from an ethics committee. Written consent was not required from the participants for an online survey (their volunteer participation on the web site is equivalent to a tacit consent). Moreover, participants could confirm their willingness to participate to our study through a question displayed at the end of the online test (and only those that agreed where considered for further analyses).

Bottom Line: However, it is unclear whether the preferred WHR in western countries reflects a universal ideal, as geographic variation in non-western areas has been found, and discordances about its temporal consistency remain in the literature.We found that the ideal WHR has changed over time in western societies: it was constant during almost a millennium in antiquity (from 500 BCE to 400 CE) and has decreased from the 15th century to the present.The potential adaptive explanations for these results are discussed.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Institute of Evolutionary Sciences, University of Montpellier, CNRS, IRD, EPHE, CC 065, Place Eugène Bataillon, Montpellier, France.

ABSTRACT
The ratio between the body circumference at the waist and the hips (or WHR) is a secondary sexual trait that is unique to humans and is well known to influence men's mate preferences. Because a woman's WHR also provides information about her age, health and fertility, men's preference concerning this physical feature may possibly be a cognitive adaptation selected in the human lineage. However, it is unclear whether the preferred WHR in western countries reflects a universal ideal, as geographic variation in non-western areas has been found, and discordances about its temporal consistency remain in the literature. We analyzed the WHR of women considered as ideally beautiful who were depicted in western artworks from 500 BCE to the present. These vestiges of the past feminine ideal were then compared to more recent symbols of beauty: Playboy models and winners of several Miss pageants from 1920 to 2014. We found that the ideal WHR has changed over time in western societies: it was constant during almost a millennium in antiquity (from 500 BCE to 400 CE) and has decreased from the 15th century to the present. Then, based on Playboy models and Miss pageants winners, this decrease appears to slow down or even reverse during the second half of the 20th century. The universality of an ideal WHR is thus challenged, and historical changes in western societies could have caused these variations in men's preferences. The potential adaptive explanations for these results are discussed.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus