You are here


Fashion models and mannequins in East Asia

Following the international furor over Satoshi Kanazawa’s article on the physical attractiveness of blacks, Lee Ellis and Ping He published a study on whether “some  racial or ethnic groups are considered on average more physically attractive than others even by members of other groups.”  Here is their study.

Lee Ellis & Ping He. Race and Advertising: Ethnocentrism or “Real” Differences in Physical Attractiveness? Indirect Evidence from China, Malaysia, and the United States. Mankind Quarterly 2011;51(4):471-489.

Implicit in the concept of ethnocentrism is the idea that people will consider members of their own race or ethnic group to be more attractive than members of other groups. If so, one would expect advertisers to take advantage of such preferences by choosing “local” models when promoting clothing fashions and other products. A contrary view is that judgments of physical attractiveness are to a substantial degree neurologically “hard-wired” and evolved similarly throughout the world. With the assumption that fashion models and manikins are considered highly attractive, the present study recorded the race of models and manikins publically displayed in city malls in China, Malaysia, and the United States. Caucasian (white, European) models were found to be mainly utilized in all three countries, especially in regard to clothing fashion displays. Even advertisements for cosmetics and fashion accessories were “Caucasian-biased” in China and Malaysia although less so than in the U.S. and less so than advertisements for clothing fashions. Findings call into question the relevance of ethnocentrism in determining the choice of fashion models used in advertising, and are instead consistent with other evidence of universal standards of physical beauty that advertisers rely on to help promote their products.

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.‭


Using adult actresses and nude models to infer what heterosexual men prefer in women’s looks: Part 2

Previously I posted my response, published in the August 2009 edition of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, to an article by Voracek and Fisher (2006) on using adult actresses and nude models to infer what heterosexual men optimally prefer in women’s looks.  When I posted this response, I forgot to check whether Voracek and Fisher replied back.  They did.  So now I am posting their reply and my comments on it (highlighted).


Seasonal variation in men’s ratings of women’s attractiveness

Pawlowski and Sorokowski(1, pdf) had a sample of Polish men, both rural and urban, rate the attractiveness of the same set of women’s pictures on 5 occasions: 2004 dates were Jan, May, Aug, Oct; 2005 date was Jan.  The images comprised of a woman’s physique whose waist-to-hip ratio was manipulated by digitally altering waist or hip size (woman’s WHR was 0.65), pictures of women’s breasts, and pictures of ordinary faces.


Nicotine enhances perceived attractiveness of faces in non-dependent smokers

Attwood et al.(1, pdf) investigated how nicotine affects the perceived attractiveness of faces among light smokers, i.e., those not dependent on nicotine.  They had pictures of the faces of young adult men and young adult women judged for attractiveness by lightly smoking male and female college students who had been asked to not smoke for the past day.  Compliance with this requirement was tested by examining the level of carbon monoxide exhaled by the participants before the test.  When the participants were tested, they were either given a regular cigarette to smoke or a nicotine-free cigarette and then they were asked to rate the attractiveness of faces as well as answer some questions about their mood and how irritable they felt.  Neither the participants nor those who administered the tests knew which participant had gotten what kind of cigarette.


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.


Using adult actresses and nude models to infer what heterosexual men prefer in women’s looks

I have argued on some occasions that using top-ranked adult actresses and nude models to infer the optimal preferences of heterosexual men is a bad idea.  Here is an upcoming letter in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.  It is a response to an article by Voracek and Fisher (2006) who concluded that heterosexual men prefer more masculine-looking adult actresses compared to nude models, and that these women are often medically underweight.


Phillippa Diedrichs: very thin fashion models do not help advertising

Here is a news item that has gotten some attention in the mainstream media.  Australian researcher Phillippa Diedrichs conducted a study that found that using very thin women models does not increase the likelihood of women buying the advertised product compared to using women within a healthy weight range.  The study involved making a series of advertisements for underwear, a haircare product and a party dress, modeled by a size-8 woman and a roughly size-12 woman.  See an example below.


Subscribe to RSS - Science