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Categorical perception of human female physical attractiveness and health

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Martin Tovee, Dr Quoc Vuong


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Using computer-generated 3D bodies, we found evidence for a categorical perception of female physical attractiveness in 40 male and 40 female UK Caucasian observers. In a rating task we showed that these artificial bodies were rated for attractiveness in the same way as real bodies. In a 2-alternative forced choice task we showed that these bodies were categorised into attractive or unattractive non-linearly, which allowed us to estimate the position of a categorical boundary. In a delayed matching-to-sample task we measured the sensitivity of discrimination between pairs of bodies, and found significantly better discrimination across the categorical boundary than within a category; that is, two bodies in different attractiveness categories (e.g. attractive and unattractive) were easier to discriminate than two bodies of equal physical difference in the same category (e.g. both attractive). There is a perceptual discontinuity at the categorical boundary, where the differences in shape change are represented in greater perceptual detail across the categories relative to within the categories. In a follow up experiment, we found that the same pattern of perception was shown for health judgements when 40 male and female observers repeated these paradigms.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tovée MJ, Edmonds L, Vuong QC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Evolution and Human Behavior

Year: 2012

Volume: 33

Issue: 2

Pages: 85-93

Print publication date: 01/03/2012

ISSN (print): 1090-5138

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2011.05.008


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