A critical test of the waist-to-hip-ratio hypothesis of female physical attractiveness Academic Article uri icon


  • Recent research has led to increasingly sophisticated conjectures as to the roles that genetic heritage, prior experience, and environmental context play in the production and maintenance of complex behaviors. The field of evolutionary psychology was born of such conjectures (Stanley, 1895) and now serves as a niche for a growing number of researchers (Buss, 1995; Kenrick, 1994). One of the more provocative lines of experimental research to emerge from this alembic derives from the linkage of evolutionary theories of human mate selection with definitions of physical attractiveness based on somatic characteristics that simultaneously signal attractiveness and predict reproductive potential (Buss, 1989). The waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) has been purportedly demonstrated to be a robust example of just such an invariant perceptual cue (e.g., Henss, 1995; Singh, 1993a). Here, we report that judgments of attractiveness and fecundity can be either unrelated or related, positively or negatively, to the WHR depending on waist size, hip size, and weight, and are thus inconsistent with the evolutionary argument that human physical attractiveness is fundamentally a sign of mate value.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Tassinary, L. G., & Hansen, K. A.

citation count

  • 88

complete list of authors

  • Tassinary, LG||Hansen, KA

publication date

  • March 1998