Male Physical Attractiveness in Britain and Malaysia: A Cross-Cultural Study

Body Image. 2005 Dec;2(4):383-93. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2005.08.001. Epub 2005 Nov 21.


Three purported cues to perceived male physical attractiveness are the waist-to-chest ratio (WCR), body mass index (BMI) and the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). This study examined the relative contribution of each cue in several socio-economically distinct populations. Ninety-five female participants from Britain and Malaysia were asked to rate a set of images of real men with known WCR, BMI and WHR. The results showed clear differences along a gradient of socio-economic development. In urban settings, WCR was the primary component of attractiveness ratings, with BMI playing a smaller role and WHR not reaching significance. In the rural setting, BMI was the primary predictor of attractiveness, with WCR playing a more minor role and WHR not reaching significance. In general, urban participants were more reliant on body shape and chose a relatively slim figure with an 'inverted triangle' shape; rural participants were more reliant on body weight and chose a heavier figure with a less triangular shape. These findings are discussed in terms of evolutionary psychological explanations of mate selection and sociological theories that emphasise the effect of resource scarcity on preferences for body shapes and sizes.