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May 9, 2011 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

The Laws of Attraction

As students, attraction is probably one of the biggest focuses of our minds. Does he like me? Does she find me attractive? How does she find him even remotely attractive?

Scientific research goes some way towards answering such questions. The first and most well-known theory is Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. This suggests that individuals compete with members of their own sex for the reproductive resources of the opposite sex. This was further broken down into two types of selection: intrasexual and intersexual. Intrasexual, or ‘male-male competition’, is where the prospective mate competes with other prospective mates for access to the opposite sex—for example, when animals lock horns with each other. Intersexual selection is where a prospective mate displays traits that are deemed by the opposite sex as preferential in order to win a mate; Darwin termed this ‘female’s choice’. A good example of this is the peacock’s impressive plumage.

The scientific field of attraction has evolved during recent times, with more studies being done on the very specific aspects of attraction in humans. Multiple scientists have put forward the idea of an ideal ‘hip-to-waist ratio’—the circumference of the waist compared to that of the hips. Studies have shown that, in many cultures, a lower hip-to-waist ratio (so, wide hips and a small waist) is far more attractive to males, with a 0.7 hip-to-waist ratio generally seen as being optimum.

That’s not all, though. Scientific research has also proven things we already know: men prefer women with larger, firmer breasts and clearer skin, because they signify a fertile female! Females prefer a male with a muscular physique, as it indicates a greater ability to provide! A study carried out by Victoria University’s own Barnaby Dixson demonstrated that women prefer men with less hair on their chests!

Dixson, an anthropologist specialising in the field of human attraction, has published some interesting results. In one of his studies, he compared physique with sexual attractiveness in male and female studies from universities in both the United States and New Zealand. Dixson’s research showed that while a low hip-to-waist ratio is considered more attractive, the optimum ratio varied for each country, with New Zealand men preferring a slightly higher ratio.

Dixson also compared penis length with attractiveness, with some surprising results. The smallest penile size was rated as less attractive than the three intermediate sizes, but the largest was not considered the most desirable. In another study, Dixson even determined that darker and medium pigmentation was found to be more attractive than light-coloured areola.

You’re probably thinking “What does this mean for me?”. Well, another study suggests that appearance doesn’t even matter when it comes to the rules of attraction. When presented with several T-shirts, each worn by a different man, a woman picked the one worn by a man with a very different immune system to hers—perhaps because a baby made by parents with differing immune systems is more likely to be strong and immunocompetent.

All of this begs the questions: is it really all about our physical appearance? Doesn’t personality ever factor into this? Well, yes, actually it does. Studies have shown that certain qualities such as humour and an ability to provide are perceived as attractive.

When all is said and done, however, these studies have their limitations. It’s very hard for us to rank the attractiveness of varying cartoon figures, and while all these individual features are attractive, when put together it can be a completely different story. Everyone’s different, and no-one’s perfect. Science is constantly making new discoveries as to just how attraction works, but it’s important to remember that all the research on areola pigmentation or penile length means very little when you meet ‘The One’.


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