Eye-tracking of men's preferences for waist-to-hip ratio and breast size of women

Arch Sex Behav. 2011 Feb;40(1):43-50. doi: 10.1007/s10508-009-9523-5. Epub 2009 Aug 18.


Studies of human physical traits and mate preferences often use questionnaires asking participants to rate the attractiveness of images. Female waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), breast size, and facial appearance have all been implicated in assessments by men of female attractiveness. However, very little is known about how men make fine-grained visual assessments of such images. We used eye-tracking techniques to measure the numbers of visual fixations, dwell times, and initial fixations made by men who viewed front-posed photographs of the same woman, computer-morphed so as to differ in her WHR (0.7 or 0.9) and breast size (small, medium, or large). Men also rated these images for attractiveness. Results showed that the initial visual fixation (occurring within 200 ms from the start of each 5 s test) involved either the breasts or the waist. Both these body areas received more first fixations than the face or the lower body (pubic area and legs). Men looked more often and for longer at the breasts, irrespective of the WHR of the images. However, men rated images with an hourglass shape and a slim waist (0.7 WHR) as most attractive, irrespective of breast size. These results provide quantitative data on eye movements that occur during male judgments of the attractiveness of female images, and indicate that assessments of the female hourglass figure probably occur very rapidly.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beauty*
  • Body Image
  • Body Size
  • Eye Movement Measurements
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Somatotypes / psychology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Waist-Hip Ratio