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60-Second Mind

A Pretty Face or a Hot Body?

When pursuing a mate for a short-term relationship, are we more interested in the face or the body? How about for a long-term relationship? Christie Nicholson reports

So take this little test: if you were interested in pursuing a partner for a short-term relationship which would you be most interested in…their face or their body?  And for a long-term relationship, face or body? That is, if you were forced to choose, of course.

Well two PhD students and their advisor, David Buss professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, did force people to make this very choice. They asked 375 college students to pick whether to date someone based on either seeing just their face or their body. 

Nearly all participants chose to see the face. Except for one of the sexes in one situation.

Can you guess which one?

Here’s Jaime Confer, one of the student researchers:

"Everyone was more interested in the opposite sex person’s face than their body—except for men in the short-term mating condition."

Which implies?

"When men were evaluating a short-term mate for a one-night stand they showed equal interest in her face and body instead of the face winning by a blowout."

For long-term 75 percent of male participants wanted to see the face, but for short-term flings 50 percent of men chose face and 50 percent chose the body.

And why would this be?

"Because cues of immediate fertility which are more important to a man pursuing short-term relationships are more densely concentrated in her body than in her face. Where as her face may have more cues of reproductive value like age and health."

Such as?

"Skin and wrinkling gives a cue to her age and her reproductive value. So if I'm going to secure this woman for many years, I want to make sure she’s not at the tail end of the fertility window."

Presumably you could tell that by looking at her body, as well?

"You could but it might be relatively more concentrated in her face than in her body."

And this is not the case in men?

"There is not this huge discrepancy in cues that women are interested in, like his good genes cues and good dad cues, health and symmetry. Those are present in face and body equally."

Freud famously asked, what do women want.  I guess it was clear to him what men wanted.

—Christie Nicholson

 

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