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Quick judgment of face beauty; variation in and appeal of women’s gait across the menstrual cycle
Two studies follow.
Facial attractiveness is judged in a fraction of a second
Some experiments have shown that people can tell apart attractive from non-attractive faces in a tenth of a second. Olson and Marshuetz(1, pdf) showed that people can beat chance in distinguishing attractive from non-attractive faces in as little as 13 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth of a second). The abstract:
Those who are physically attractive reap many benefits—from higher average wages to a wider variety of mate choices. Recent studies have investigated what constitutes beauty and how beauty affects explicit social judgments, but little is known about the perceptual or cognitive processing that is affected by aesthetic judgments of faces and why beauty affects our behavior. In this study, the authors show that beauty is perceived when information is minimized by masking or rapid presentation. Perceiving and processing beauty appear to require little attention and to bias subsequent cognitive processes. These facts may make beauty difficult to ignore, possibly leading to its importance in social evaluations.
A study that showed rapid judgment of aesthetically pleasing waist-hip proportions in women was previously addressed.
Differences in and attractiveness of women’s gait across the menstrual cycle
Provost et al.(2, pdf) investigated whether women’s gait (how they walk) changes across the menstrual cycle and how men’s attractiveness ratings of women’s walk changes accordingly. They assessed the gait of young women not on hormonal birth control pills by placing reflective markers on their bodies and following the movement of the markers. Analysis of the movement of these markers revealed that women in the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle (late follicular phase) could be distinguished, to some extent, from women in the non-fertile phase of the menstrual cycle, but it wasn’t clear what exactly the difference was. The authors also assessed the walking patterns of women on hormonal birth control and found that it was not distinguishable from the gait of women not on hormonal birth control and during the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle.
The authors then had male raters judge the attractiveness of the gaits of the women not on hormonal birth control, without telling them what the purpose of the study was or providing information on what phase of the menstrual cycle the women were in. Men tended to rate women’s walk during their non-fertile phase more appealing than during their fertile phase. In contrast, a previous study had reported that the faces of women were rated more attractive while they were in the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle than when they were in the non-fertile phase.(3, pdf) One possible explanation of these finds is that advertising fertility to potential rapists is a liability, and if women were to make themselves more appealing by their walk while they were at the greatest likelihood of conceiving, then potential rapists could pick up on the cues from a distance, but subtly advertising greater likelihood of conception in features that can be assessed from close interaction only, such as the face, will be helpful to an intimate male partner. More research will be needed to address this issue. The authors cite other research consistent with ovulation not being concealed in women but also not being prominently advertised.
The differences in gait documented in this study were unlikely to be consciously altered by women, but boy do some women know how to walk and make men gawk! Recently, a friend of mine (male) and I went to a scooter place to look at some scooters. The cute-faced saleslady was dressed in a tight sleeveless T-shirt and short shorts. Her breasts were ready to pop out of the T-shirt and did she have a teeny-tiny waist! Then she turned around to lead us and damn...all we could do was look at the jiggle and wiggle of her backside. I can barely recall what kind of scooters the place had. We wondered what in the world this woman was doing working for around minimum wage at the scooter place, but then what is this site about? One day women like her will have mainstream modeling opportunities without having to pose nude or sleep around.
- Olson, I. R., and Marshuetz, C., Facial attractiveness is appraised in a glance, Emotion, 5, 498 (2005).
- Provost, M. P., Quinsey, V. L., and Troje, N. F., Differences in Gait Across the Menstrual Cycle and Their Attractiveness to Men, Arch Sex Behav (2007), DOI 10.1007/s10508-007-9219-7.
- Roberts, S. C., Havlicek, J., Flegr, J., Hruskova, M., Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., Perrett, D. I., and Petrie, M., Female facial attractiveness increases during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle, Proc Biol Sci, 271 Suppl 5, S270 (2004).