Media ReleaseFrom: The Royal Society
Long legs make you weak at the knees: Women prefer longer than average legs when it comes to being attracted to men, and are indifferent to arm length. Slightly longer legs could be preferred because they offer a balance between the advantages of greater size in a potential mate, such as robustness and implied socioeconomic privilege, and those of averageness, which is associated with a strong immune system and good health.
The influence of leg-to-body ratio, arm-to-body ratio, and intra-limb ratio on male human attractiveness
Research conducted by a team of psychologists and evolutionary anthropologists from the University of Cambridge recently demonstrated that male attractiveness depends on a person’s limb proportions. They had women rate the attractiveness of CGI male figures that were designed using state-of-the-art software and were based on a large, reliable database of males from the US military, meaning their proportions resembled actual human males in the population. The figures were designed so that overall height remained constant while changes were made to leg and arm length, as well as the ratio between the lower and upper limb segment (e.g., lower arm to upper arm). Surprisingly, the results suggested that a person’s arm length doesn’t affect attractiveness, even when very extreme, but that there is a clear preference for legs when they’re slightly longer than average. There was also some indication of a preference for an average ratio between the lower and upper limb segment – that is, figures with limbs where one segment was longer or shorter than average were relatively undesirable – although this only had a minor impact on ratings. These results might be explained in terms of evolved mate-choice preferences. In particular, slightly longer legs could be preferred because they offer a balance between the advantages of greater size in a potential mate, such as robustness and implied socioeconomic privilege, and those of averageness, which is associated with a strong immune system and good health. The preference for average lower-upper limb segment ratios might also reflect the importance of health when picking a partner. The authors note that the findings “add to the growing evidence that limb variation influences aspects of human well-being ranging from mate choice to employment prospects to medical outcomes, and also offer insights into the role of limb proportions in evolutionary history”. However, they also urge caution in interpreting the results in terms of real-world outcomes that depend on attractiveness, especially because the contribution of limb proportions was not assessed relative to other aspects of morphology, such as overall body and face shape, which are likely to be considerably more important.