Men's preference for certain body types has evolutionary roots

March 19, 2015
Women with (a) less vertebral wedging at the third-to-last lumbar vertebra (modal L3 depicted), and (b) greater wedging, resulting in a more acute angle of lumbar curvature. Credit: The University of Texas at Austin

A psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin sheds new light on today's standards of beauty, attributing modern men's preferences for women with a curvy backside to prehistoric influences.

The study, published online in Evolution and Human Behavior, investigated men's mate preference for women with a "theoretically optimal angle of lumbar curvature," a 45.5 degree curve from back to buttocks allowing ancestral women to better support, provide for, and carry out multiple pregnancies.

"What's fascinating about this research is that it is yet another scientific illustration of a close fit between a sex-differentiated feature of human morphology—in this case lumbar curvature—and an evolved standard of attractiveness," said the study's co-author David Buss, a UT Austin psychology professor. "This adds to a growing body of evidence that beauty is not entirely arbitrary, or 'in the eyes of the beholder' as many in mainstream social science believed, but rather has a coherent adaptive logic."

This research, led by UT Austin alumnus and Bilkent University psychologist David Lewis, consisted of two studies. The first looked at vertebral wedging, an underlying spinal feature that can influence the actual curve in women's lower backs.

Buttock protrusion associated with (a) gluteal development indicating physical fitness, (b) adipose tissue deposition, and (c) vertebral wedging. Notes: All women exhibit identical buttock protrusion. Women (a) and (c) also exhibit an identical angle between the thoracic spine and buttocks (i.e., lumbar curvature). Credit: The University of Texas at Austin

About 100 men rated the attractiveness of several manipulated images displaying spinal curves ranging across the natural spectrum. Men were most attracted to images of women exhibiting the hypothesized optimum of 45 degrees of lumbar curvature.

"This spinal structure would have enabled to balance their weight over the hips," Lewis said. "These women would have been more effective at foraging during pregnancy and less likely to suffer spinal injuries. In turn, men who preferred these women would have had mates who were better able to provide for fetus and offspring, and who would have been able to carry out without injury."

The second study addressed the question of whether men prefer this angle because it reflects larger buttocks, or whether it really can be attributed to the angle in the spine itself.

Approximately 200 men were presented with groups of images of women with differing buttock size and vertebral wedging, but maintaining a 45.5-degree curve. Men consistently preferred women whose was closer to optimum regardless of buttock size.

Schematic of a complete series of stimuli. Credit: The University of Texas at Austin

"This enabled us to conclusively show that men prefer who exhibit specific angles of spinal curvature over buttock mass," said the study's co-author Eric Russell, a visiting researcher from UT Arlington.

This morphology and men's psychological preference toward it have evolved over thousands of years, and they won't disappear over night.

"This tight fit between evolutionary pressures and modern humans' psychology, including our standards of attractiveness, highlights the usefulness that an evolutionary approach can have for expanding our knowledge not just of the natural sciences, but also the social sciences," Lewis said.

Explore further: The ideal age of sexual partners is different for men and women

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24 comments

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dogbert
3 / 5 (8) Mar 19, 2015
It seems looking good is good.
Z99
2.8 / 5 (13) Mar 19, 2015
Wow! This is absolutely incredible! What fantastic advances we're seeing! Who would have thought that a study of 100 men could, in the author's words, "conclusively show that men prefer..."? You can sample 0.000003% of a global population (NOT randomly, since the men had to be available to take the survey) and be "conclusive" about anything! Sarcasm aside, this is rubbish. Interesting questions, imho, are about HOW genetics and culture (nurture) interact to (apparently) predispose SOME to prefer the appearance of a certain skeletal structure...I'd expect childhood has something to do with it, rather than any absolute geometry. It would be interesting to test/verify this by doing the analogous study with pre-pubescents (of both sexes).
I'd also note that I was told long ago by an orthopedic surgeon that there IS a racial difference in the angle of the pelvis which, along with the spine contributes to "overhang"...Not sure if its a confirmed fact or myth - doctors tend to be gulible...
I Have Questions
3.8 / 5 (10) Mar 19, 2015
I like big butts and I can not lie.
adam_russell_9615
4.1 / 5 (13) Mar 19, 2015
Arent modern beauty preferences only widely accepted for the last couple hundred years though? How could it then be related to prehistoric influences?

Congratulations on getting a grant to study women's curves though.
Surly
4.1 / 5 (9) Mar 20, 2015
Like 95% of evo psych, this study assumes that a very local finding must be universal. This isn't a deep insight, it's sociological minutia.
DavidTheShepherd
2 / 5 (12) Mar 20, 2015
They got the grant. That's all that counts.
To get the grant, play the evolutionary card.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (5) Mar 20, 2015
I like big butts and I can not lie.


And - there's a man you should be able to trust -
He can't lie.

Except, of course, if he's lying about it...
Whydening Gyre
4 / 5 (4) Mar 20, 2015
Here's an alternative - women whose hips had better flexibility in that direction (posterior) made for easier access to the fun stuff. We guys are kinda lazy that way...
Those girls got more action and therefore more varied progeny - lighting the way to our present day "environment"...:-)
mooster75
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 21, 2015
I like big butts and I can not lie.

Don't let the downvotes get you; around here they would probably assume Sir Mix-A-Lot is a blender...
Captain Stumpy
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 21, 2015
They got the grant. That's all that counts.
To get the grant, play the evolutionary card.
@dave
why post and read on a science site if you don't want to be educated or follow the science?

there are thousands of forums for religious and other people to argue till they are blue in the face....
go there and post diatribe about science

or are you here because it is not moderated?

the above is an interesting look at how we have evolved... just read the last paragraph
"This tight fit between evolutionary pressures and modern humans' psychology, including our standards of attractiveness, highlights the usefulness that an evolutionary approach can have for expanding our knowledge not just of the natural sciences, but also the social sciences," Lewis said.
if you don't believe in evolution, you should hang out at that idiotic creationist museum in KY... they love your type there

all religions love a good sucker
Lex Talonis
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 21, 2015
That spinal curvature - it's better for doggy style fucking as well.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Mar 21, 2015
That spinal curvature - it's better for doggy style fucking as well.

Is what I was referring to in earlier post... We didn't start out with missionary...
pepe2907
not rated yet Mar 22, 2015
Now I'd want to know what's the scientific proof women with that specific pelvic angle are better in carrying a child.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Mar 22, 2015
Now I'd want to know what's the scientific proof women with that specific pelvic angle are better in carrying a child.

The specific evolutionary driver would be the accessability to sexual congress...
Ojorf
5 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2015
Now I'd want to know what's the scientific proof women with that specific pelvic angle are better in carrying a child.


There is no proof, there doesn't have to be. Sexual selection does not need a survival advantage.
EnricM
3 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2015
Arent modern beauty preferences only widely accepted for the last couple hundred years though? How could it then be related to prehistoric influences?

Congratulations on getting a grant to study women's curves though.


Good point. And what about ecological diversity of human populations that affects mating customs and preferences? And what about homosexuality? And what happens to young humans among which females do not (yet) have the necessary curvatures?

I don't think that there is need for a peer review if a bunch of random guys in a forum can utterly destroy the claims made be these guys ;)
Moebius
5 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2015
I like women who don't look like men, call me heterosexual. Women have curves where men don't and men generally never get. Large breasts, small waist, wide hips, skinny legs and arms. I would say that is the basis of that preference, no telling about the guys who like extremely large women, they do look like something that a man could look like.
bluehigh
3 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2015
The modern female cares little of male body shape.
Wallet size counts. The metric evolved. Survival of the fittest rules.

However as a modern male I am looking for a particular shape of women that, when pregnant, can go foraging to support offspring?

Evolution sucks!

antigoracle
1 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2015
Every woman has the perfect body, when she's sixteen.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Mar 23, 2015
Every woman has the perfect body, when she's sixteen.

I like 'em a little more well done. 18 to 21 or thereabouts...
Unfortunately, at 60, that won't happen again in THIS lifetime...:-(
antigoracle
1 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2015
Don't make me out to be a perv WG, I was just stating an undeniable fact. Oh, if you do get an 18-21, I'll definitely try an make it to your funeral.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Mar 23, 2015
Don't make me out to be a perv WG, I was just stating an undeniable fact. Oh, if you do get an 18-21, I'll definitely try an make it to your funeral.

Not making you a perv, you are pretty close to right. Just stating my preferences.
BTW - It'll take TWO of 'em (at the same time)to start funeral proceedings...
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Mar 24, 2015
you are pretty close to right. Just stating my preferences.
BTW - It'll take TWO of 'em (at the same time)to start funeral proceedings...
@WG
not worth the headache
either one OR two... or more even

trust me

Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2015
you are pretty close to right. Just stating my preferences.
BTW - It'll take TWO of 'em (at the same time)to start funeral proceedings...
@WG
not worth the headache
either one OR two... or more even

trust me

Cap'n. I wasn't even thinking about future headaches - just what it would take to get to the funeral "proceedings" started...:-)
Let's face it. The little head doesn't really take the time to consider how well a woman might carry a baby to term...

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