Monday, October 15, 2007

Cross Cultural Perception of Attractiveness

One issue that I have found particularly interesting is the differences and similarities in the perception of attractiveness across cultures.

Different studies have highlighted that across cultures and ethnic groups- attractiveness ratings differs.
* Cunningham, Roberts, Wu, Barbee, & Druen (1995) found a correlation Hispanics and Whites perception of facial attractiveness, but found that Asians were less influenced by sexual maturity and expressive features. (Exposure to Western media did not influence attractiveness ratings). It was also found that facial attractiveness was highly correlated between Whites and Blacks--- but a major difference in the perception of attractive bodies. The 'Blacks' (as the study calls African American & African participants) found a larger woman more attractive than the 'whites' (Caucasian participants).

* Swami et al (2007)- Male physical attractiveness in Britain and Greece- found that Greek women showed a stronger preference for a lower Waist to Chest Ratio and a smaller overall body weight. It is argued that gender roles are different in each country and that an attractive body for Greek women is a man with a muscular frame and V shaped torso. This is reflected in many ancient Greek art works and Greek culture- that masculinity and an athletic V shaped body is ideal.

* Swami et al (2006) Female physical attractiveness in Britain and Japan- found many cross cultural differences occur between British and Japanese perception of an attractive female body. Results showed that Japanese participants prefered images of women with significantly lower Body Mass Indexes than Britons. Results also showed that Japanese participants were more reliant on body shape than Britons when judging physical attractiveness. This journal discusses that Japanese people endorse an extremely thin body Ideal- Sociocultural Theory. They also argue western society may have influenced japanese perception of attractiveness.
Again, this study asserts that gender roles may be important in the perception of attractiveness cross culturally- One example from another example is:

2 distinct cultures Denmark (rich, less sex role stereotyped) and Portugal (poorer, more sex role stereotyped)- Finding Portugese subjects display a much stronger preference for traditional thin and hourglass females and V shaped males- perhaps this could apply for the Japanese predominance for a thinner female- and the importance of attractiveness in Japanese Culture.

Attractiveness not only changes from culture to culture.... but has also changed over time.

* Barber- documented the female bodily attractiveness standard for Miss america and Playboy over time... and also juxtaposed the body types of Women in Playboy (mens attraction magazine) and Vogue (womens fashion magazine) and showed that women in Playboy were far more buxom and curvaceous- which men found significantly more appealing.

Just a few of the interesting things that I have found...

Attractiveness perception appears to be fluid in some respects and stagnant is others.

Physical Attractiveness especially appears to be very very fickle....

2 comments:

Silveridea said...

Directed towards the author of this article, I’d like to say you made many good points about the attraction across cultures, and how it has changed over time. It is indeed “fickle”, never staying the same and that is because time itself is continuously changing. With time, humans learn to adapt new methods, and improve ideas and preferences like attraction. One big idea to remember is that there is a difference in what is “attractive” between faces and bodies. It has been seen in faces that there are what some may call “universal characteristics” (Heine, 2012) including complexion, bilateral symmetry, and average features. These average facial features possibly show genetic health (Rhodes et al., 2001) and have been noticed to hold across cultures. Faces of European-Australians and Japanese were averaged together and the results held for both cultures that mixed Eurasians were the most “attractive” (Rhodes, 2005). The big difference in bodies though, as Heine puts it, is that attractive bodies are the ones that “depart considerably from the average” (Heine, 2012). As you mention throughout the article, perceptions of “attractiveness” have changed through different ethnic groups in preference of the body. I believe this is to be expected as we look at each culture individually, understanding their cultural norm. But faces on the other hand, have an interesting larger role in attraction. Faces seem to have a more influenced universal natural standard, while body attractiveness is shaped by our cultures specific attractive features. Face attractiveness is not simply judged by the “sex roles” and cultural influences like bodies are. The three reasons I mentioned earlier all have a biological role to them, which is probably why it’s similar across cultures. A face with a cleaner complexion shows a healthier mate who would produce healthier offspring. Bilateral symmetry of the face shows that the person is less likely to have genetic mutations, which shows they are in prime health. An average face shows two interesting points. First, that a person who average features is less likely to have genetic abnormalities, and thus “reflect genetic health” (Heine, 2012). And second, an average face is thought to be a “prototype of faces” (Heine, 2012). What is means is that we can process and understand the face in a quicker and less effort manner, which leads to “good feelings and feelings of attraction” (Heine, 2012).

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