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Satoshi Kanazawa on the physical attractiveness of blacks

In May 2011, Satoshi Kanazawa wrote an article for Psychology Today online titled‭ “‬Why‭ ‬Black Women Are Less‭ ‬ Physically Attractive Than Other Women,‭” ‬which the editor(s‭) ‬quickly changed to‭ “‬Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women,‭ ‬But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men‭?‬”.‭  ‬The article was yanked by the magazine following a racism outcry‭; ‬copies survive in some places‭ (‬e.g.,‭ ‬scribd,‭ ‬pdf‭)‬.‭  ‬Kanazawa’s university,‭ ‬London School of Economics‭ (‬LSE‭)‬,‭ ‬asked him to refrain from writing in non-peer reviewed publications pending an investigation of his research,‭ ‬many of his‭ “‬peers‭” ‬went into overdrive attacking him,‭ ‬he was fired from blogging at Psychology Today,‭ ‬and many tried to have him fired as LSE professor.

A discussion of matters that Kanazawa addressed in his deleted article has come up at this site repeatedly and created numerous problems for me.‭  ‬Thus they should be addressed properly.‭


A clarification on the minutiae of physical attractiveness

Sometimes I am asked a question of the type:

Woman A and woman B both have feature f1, yet you find woman B much more attractive than woman A.‭  Why?

If I have the time to respond, my typical response is in terms of overall looks.‭  Some readers may insist that I explain in terms clearer than overall looks, i.e., identify specific features that are less attractive in woman A.‭  This can lead to a more complex situation, such as:

Woman A and woman B both have features f1, f2, f3, yet you find woman B more attractive than woman A. Why?

If I answer this question, then it may be in terms of minutiae here and there—e.g., wider nostrils, more angular jawline, longer philtrum, etc.‭  This leads to the special issue of the minutiae of physical attractiveness.‭  Whereas it is easy to show broad agreement among people on major elements of physical attractiveness, the agreement becomes less broad on minutiae.‭  As an example, most people will agree that a full head of hair is more attractive than baldness, but fewer people will agree that straight or wavy hair looks better than wooly Afro hair, and an even smaller proportion will agree on a particular hair color looking better than others.

This means that when people ask me the second type of question—whereby two women share a lot of physical characteristics, yet I find one better looking—making me describe the minutiae of why, they may be getting more insights into my personal preferences than into general principles of beauty [either what most people would prefer in the same comparison or what normal, error-free biological design should be producing].‭  In this case, there is no reason for anyone to have any interest in my personal preferences.

There is a second possibility regarding minutiae.‭  Someone with more than basic knowledge of science can easily come up with articles to put up a show of false erudition.‭  A pretense to knowledge and learning is easily spotted by the learned, but the masses not familiar with the scientific issues discussed here should consider the possibility than my work is often an elaborate justification for my own personal preferences, in which case there is again no reason for anyone to care about my specific preferences.

If I am knowingly putting up a show of pseudo-scholarship, then the reader should not expect me to admit to it.‭  This leaves the interested reader having insufficient knowledge of science with the difficult task of determining to what extent my writings reflect the scientific understanding of physical femininity and beauty, to what extent they represent a sincere effort but mistaken understanding of their nature, and to what extent they represent elaborate justification for my personal preferences without representing insights into the nature of physical femininity and beauty.

Because of the two reasons—the very nature of preferences where agreement on attractiveness is less broad when it comes to the minutiae of many aspects of physical form, and questions about my intentions, motives and methods—readers should not dwell too much on the second type of question as they may not be getting insights into the general elements or nature of beauty.


Is the average torso among women the most attractive?

Is this the most attractive torso in women?

average torso in women, attractive torso

This is a rough sketch of the average torso of a sample of adult women that was found most attractive in a study by Donohoe et al.(1, pdf), more attractive than the average torsos of “super attractive” women such as Playboy centerfolds, high-fashion models from the 1920s and 1930s and high class Australian prostitutes/escorts.

This study employed a different methodology from most studies in the genre to date.  The authors produced sketches of torsos with random combinations of shoulder, waist and hip widths – all widths found within samples of ordinary women – and had sets of images rated for attractiveness by male students.


Waist depth (side view) as an important criterion of women’s attractiveness

Rilling et al.(1, pdf) had male and female judges rate the attractiveness of women’s bodies in front, side and back views as well as a short video clip of women’s bodies rotated in space.

The stimulus set comprised of young adult women with a body mass index (BMI; a measure of how much weight a given height carries or weight divided by the square of height) between 18 and 24.

The authors found that waist depth, shown below, was an important predictor of women’s attractiveness.

Waist depth
Waist depth.


Attractiveness related to head and face length relative to height

People have been describing the ideal length of the head (top of head to bottom of chin) or face height (from hairline to bottom of chin) in relation to standing height since at least Classical Greece.  In the fifth century B.C., the Greek sculptor Polycleitus of Argos described some aesthetic proportions in The Canon of Polycleitus and illustrated it with a bronze statue of the Canon or Doryphorus (Spear bearer).  The Roman marble copy of Doryphorus is shown below.  The height of Doryphorus is 7.5 times the head length.


Attractive umbilicus (belly button) in women

This article addresses two papers on the attractive form of the umbilicus in women.


A genetic algorithm for selecting more beautiful faces

Here is a novel approach to generating more attractive faces using a computer, though the morphing methodology used leaves much to be desired.  The article is by Wong et al.(1, pdf)


Are faces more attractive when they are closer to the average of their ethnic group?

Potter and Corneille came up with the following study:(1, pdf)

Abstract: Face attractiveness relates positively to the mathematical averageness of a face, but how close attractive faces of varying groups are to their own and to other-group prototypes in the face space remains unclear.  In two studies, we modeled the locations of attractive and unattractive Caucasian, Asian, and African faces in participants’ face space using multidimensional scaling analysis.  In all three sets of faces, facial attractiveness significantly increased with the absolute proximity of a face to its group prototype.  In the case of Caucasian and African faces (Study 1), facial attractiveness also tended to increase with the absolute proximity of a face to the other-group prototype.  However, this association was at best marginal, and it became clearly non-significant when distance to the own-group prototype was controlled for.  Thus, the present research provides original evidence that average features of faces contribute to increasing their attractiveness, but only when these features are average to the group to which a face belongs.  The present research also offers further support to face space models of people’s mental representations of faces.


Women’s body size preferences among men in Britain, Malaysia and Samoa

Here are two studies on cross-cultural comparisons.


Quick judgment of face beauty; variation in and appeal of women’s gait across the menstrual cycle

Two studies follow.



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