What Physical Characteristics Make People Seem Attractive?

Determinants of physical attractiveness were investigated in a study employing U.S. college students of both genders. Five factors were derived from a study of 37 stable and changeable physical features: Masculinity (strength, larger body and chest, broader chin), Femininity (longer hair, make-up, larger and rounder eyes), Self-care (overall grooming, shapely figure, flat stomach, erect posture, fitted clothes), Pleasantness (friendly, happy, babyish face), and Ethnicity. Thus, factor analytic results did not support a priori (and non-statistical) groupings of babyish facial features by investigators who use this concept. Self-care, Masculinity (Femininity), and Pleasantness were positive correlates of male (female) attractiveness. Attractiveness was described parsimoniously in terms of emotions: more attractive targets elicited more pleasure, more arousal, and less dominance (or more submissiveness) from others. Men and women reacted in essentially similar ways in rating others' attractiveness. Statistical tests showed that emotional reactions mediated relations of the independent variables (physical features) to the dependent variables (judgments of attractiveness).

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