Friday, October 1, 2010

I Can Imagine this Experiment Ruining Relationships

In breaking news from the world of that-confirms-what-I'd-suspected and well-isn't-that-depressing, scientists have discovered a disparity between the physical shape of people's actual significant others and that of their ideal significant others. Researchers at the Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution in France performed an experiment involving 116 "human couples," and found that, on average, men preferred their women much slimmer, and women preferred their men slightly beefier.

In the tests, each participant was given two silhouettes to modify - one that represented themselves, and one that represented the body shape of their ideal mates.  Each member was granted freedom - no worried loved ones looking over their shoulders - to alter the ideal mate silhouette to whatever looked most attractive to them.  The researchers then took the dimensions of the idealized silhouettes and compared them against the measurements taken from the participants and their actual mates.  

The findings break down as follows:
  • The men's ideal mates were generally significantly slimmer and slightly taller, thus having lower BMIs (body mass index)
  • The women's ideal mates were slightly larger and a little taller, with similarly proportioned BMIs
The paper concludes that no one had just what they wanted, which isn't particularly surprising.  


What's troubling, however, is that the preferred silhouette that the men drew had an average BMI of 18.4, just below the cut-off for being officially underweight by the standards of the World Health Organization.  Women drew silhouettes with an average BMI of 23.5, well within range and for their partners.  

While the study can do little to tease out the cause of these disparities, it's easy to let speculation lead us astray.  There weren't many controls in the experiment, and there aren't other similar tests that compare both mate preference and mate choice, so it's hard to draw any solid conclusions.  

What the researchers did conclude is that mate preference is a poor predictor of mate choice.  Basically, you're not likely to end up dating the body of your dreams.  Perhaps it's best to focus your preferences on non-physical attributes then, eh?  

1 comment:

  1. I'd want exactly what my spouse looks like. OK, well... may be a little taller. :)