BY DEBRA
KELLY AND CHRISTINE-MARIE LIWAG DIXON
They say that beauty is only
skin deep, but there’s no denying that those first impressions are important
ones. Ever wonder what men are really noticing, and what they really, honestly
find the most attractive? Fortunately, there have been at least a handful of
studies that have tried to find out just what men (and women) find attractive
in their prospective partners, and it turns out that sometimes, it’s so
hardwired into us that we don’t even realize what we’re looking for — until we
find it.
Blue
eyes (but only sometimes)

Blondes have more fun, and
what’s more wholesome than a blue-eyed blonde? Brown-eyed girls shouldn’t
despair, though, as a study from the University of Tromso in Norway suggests
that when it comes to potential mates, it’s only blue-eyed men that show a
preference for blue-eyed women.

Researchers asked 443
individuals a series of questions based on the hair and eye color of their
current and past partners. They also presented participants with a series of
photos in which the models’ eyes had been manipulated to change color, while
leaving the rest of their appearance the same. They found that while women and
brown-eyed men showed no preference to any particular eye color, they also
found that blue-eyed men overwhelmingly chose (and were attracted to) blue-eyed
women.
The study also suggests
there’s a very practical reason for this, and it’s all down to genetics. The
only way a child can have blue eyes is to be born to two blue-eyed parents, or
to two people who each carry part of the recessive gene for blue eyes. When two
blue-eyed parents have a brown-eyed child, there could be something fishy going
on. Blue-eyed people don’t carry the genes for brown eyes (they’d have brown
eyes themselves), so the reasoning goes that a blue-eyed man will be more
attracted to a blue-eyed woman. The study’s authors say that, conscious or
subconscious, blue-eyed men’s preference for blue-eyed women might be linked to
one extra layer of paternity protection.
An
“older” appearance

It can be tough when those
first few gray hairs show up, or when you realize that you’re suddenly in the
next higher age bracket. But according to a joint study between psychologists
from the University of St. Andrews and the University of Liverpool, a more
mature appearance is exactly what some men find the most attractive.

Generally, cultures have a set
of norms about what they consider attractive — that’s what makes a movie star
universally admired, for example. Researchers wanted to find out how our
personal experiences helped shape what we as individuals find attractive, so
they looked at whether or not the faces we’re exposed to as children impact what
we’re attracted to as adults. They found that it absolutely does, at least,
when men are looking for a long-term partner.
The study found that men who
were born to “older” mothers (those over 30) were more likely to find
older women more attractive when they were looking for long-term relationships.
While men who were only thinking in the short term didn’t show the same
preferences, there was a definite correlation between the age of a man’s
parents and his choice in women. While the mechanism that’s at work here isn’t
entirely understood, it’s suggested that when looking for a long-term partner,
there’s something about the influence of the first committed, long-term
relationship we’re in (the parent-child relationship) that helps provide us
with feelings of security as adults.
Similar
characteristics to parents

Other studies suggest that
parents’ influence on what characteristics men find attractive goes even beyond
age. Another study from the University of St. Andrews looked at a phenomenon
known as imprinting, well known to exist in the animal world and, until
recently, largely unexplored in humans.

The study looked at how likely
men (and women) are to be attracted to certain hair and eye color in their
chosen partners, and they found that for men, the best indicator of preferences
was the hair and eye color of their mothers. When nearly 700 volunteer
participants (including 394 men) were asked about the hair and eye color of
themselves, their parents, and their partners, they found that overwhelmingly,
men were attracted to the same coloring that their mothers had. The same
correlation didn’t appear when comparing their father’s hair and eye color, and
while researchers aren’t entirely sure what’s going on here, they did suggest
that it’s possible that the early connection between mother and son formed a
sort of subconscious bond that suggests safety, familiarity, and comfort linked
to the eye and hair color they knew first.
Another study, this one done
by the University of Tokyo, found that men showed significant preference for
women who shared something else with their mother: height. When they looked at
volunteers who reported their own heights, along with their parents’ and their
partners’ heights, they found that men were much more likely to be attracted to
a woman of similar height to their mother.
The
right sense of humor

A sense of humor is high on
the list of traits that everyone says they look for in potential partners, but
according to a study published in Evolution and Human Behavior, the sort of
humor men and women find attractive is surprisingly different.

When both men and women were
asked about the traits they looked for in a partner, both groups reported a
sense of humor was equally important. But when the study looked a little
further, they found that while women valued both the ability to be funny and to
appreciate the same sort of things they found funny, men were a little more
one-sided with what they found attractive. The men surveyed didn’t rate funny
women as any more desirable, and instead, it was receptiveness to their own
sense of humor that they valued. In other words, men want someone who’s going
to laugh at their jokes. For men, it wasn’t as necessary that women be able to
make them laugh. They were looking for someone who appreciated their capacity
for what the study called their production of humor.
When men’s responses were
broken down by the type of relationship they were talking about, the results
were even more drastic. When it came to dating and long-term relationships, it
was even more important for men to find someone who appreciated their sense of
humor, while funny females were better for friendship and short-term relationships.
The
right head tilt

According to a pair of
Australian researchers, one thing that men find surprisingly attractive is a
simple one that anyone can do — just tilt your head the right way.

They took a series of faces
that were manipulated to appear as they were being viewed from different
angles, and volunteers were then asked to rate the attractiveness of those
faces, along with how feminine or masculine they were. They found that men were
most attracted to faces when women tilted their heads forward enough that they
were looking slightly up.
The results were significant
and suggested that nothing more than a simple adjustment to the way we carry
ourselves could make someone measurably more attractive. They suggested that it
has something to do with height, and that when a man sees a woman who tilts her
head forward and looks up at him, she’s presenting herself in such a way that
accents height differences and, in turn, traditional ideas about masculinity
and femininity.
Taking
hunter-gatherer risks

This one goes both ways, and
it turns out that both men and women find certain risk-taking behaviors
incredibly attractive in potential mates. Personality traits that include being
open to certain risks were rated as highly attractive to women, but
surprisingly, men were attracted to women who were a certain kind of
adventurous.

According to a study done by
the University of Alaska Anchorage, men (and women) were attracted to those
with personality traits that allowed them to take part in and enjoy what they
called hunter-gatherer risks. That includes activities and dangers similar to
what our ancient ancestors would have faced, like skiing, mountain climbing,
whitewater rafting, and other outdoor activities. While those are things we
usually think of as being attractive when a man does them, the study found that
men are also attracted to the same behaviors in women.
Being attracted to risk-taking
behaviors only went so far, through, and it was only ancient risks that were
found attractive. Taking modern risks were definitely seen as less attractive,
and that meant everything from driving without a seat belt to dabbling in
drugs.
A
high-pitched voice

While you might think that a
husky voice would be a sexy one, studies have shown that what men are really
attracted to is a higher-pitched voice. According to one study done by
University College London, high-pitched voices were found to be almost
universally more attractive to men, mostly because of the features, figure, and
youth they imagined to go along with that voice. Volunteers were asked to
listen to a series of voices and then rate them based on their appeal, and
researchers found that there was sort of a sweet spot in pitch. Men rated
high-pitched voices more attractive, but only to a certain point. When the
voice got too high-pitched, the attractiveness declined. By the end of the
study, they concluded that in order to be most attractive, a voice should be
moderately high-pitched and slightly breathy, all which reportedly signaled
that the speaker had a small frame.

Weirdly, they were also able
to draw comparisons between their results and results that had been already
found in the animal kingdom. There, males and females often have different
pitch and tone to their voice, as they’re used for different reasons. That
further led the team to the conclusion that men prefer moderately high-pitched
voices not only because of the physical qualities they imply, but also because
they impart the idea of submissiveness and make confrontation seem unlikely.
If your voice doesn’t fall
into the realm of “moderately high-pitched,” there’s no need to fear.
According to a study from the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, women who are
talking to a man they’re attracted to tend to speak in a higher pitch without
even realizing they’re doing it.
Ovulation

The science behind this one is
pretty fascinating, and while ovulation might not be a specific trait, it is
linked to some traits that men find attractive. According to a study in the
journal Hormones and Behavior, men were more likely to rate women as being the
most attractive when they were at the most fertile point in their menstrual
cycle.

There have been a huge number
of studies done on this, and there have been some fascinating discoveries. As
women approach peak fertility, voices get higher in pitch, body odor changes
and becomes more desirable, and it’s even suspected there might be some sort of
incredibly discreet change in skin or lip color — all things men have
traditionally found more attractive.
In 2007, a University of New
Mexico study found that fertility even seemed to impact the tips made by
professional lap dancers, and another study done by researchers from the
University of Gottingen in Germany got similar results. Men were asked to watch
silhouettes of women dancing and to pick out the more attractive women based
only on their movements. Overwhelmingly, they choose the women who were at
their most fertile, and they did the same thing when they were asked to choose
the most attractive silhouettes of women simply walking. Researchers suspect
that hormonal changes that happen in the body at times of peak fertility change
some things to appeal even more to men, allowing them to pick up on fertility
unconsciously.
The
perfect WHR

When it comes to overall body
shapes, we always hear that it’s the hourglass figure that’s most attractive.
That might not be entirely true, though, and according to research done by
professors at the University of Texas, it’s only the last part of the
traditional trio of measurements that really matters.

Professor Devendra Singh took
a look at the differences in how male and female bodies store fat, coupled with
indicators of health and fertility. She found that when women have a waist to
hip ratio (WHR) of between .67 and .8, they’re thought to be the most
attractive to men. She conducted a series of experiments that not only surveyed
men as to what shape they found most attractive, but also looked back through
the last few decades at everything from Miss America contestants to Playboy
models. The overwhelming majority of the men she surveyed agreed that the most
attractive shape had to do with that magic WHR number, no matter what their age
group was.
Other studies show that
no matter what the actual size of a woman is, it’s the ratio that’s more
important than the weight or build. From women like Beyonce to Kate Moss, it
didn’t matter how much they weighed. It was the ratio that men found most
attractive.
Personality
really does matter

When it comes to figuring out
which traits are going to be most attractive to potential partners, it’s easy
to focus on the physical. But studies have shown that personality traits like
kindness really, truly do make a person more attractive. 

One study done at the
University of Westminster polled 2,157 male students to find out what they
found most attractive. There was no body type or shape they found to be more
universally attractive than any other. When men were supplied with personality
traits, though, those traits made them select a wider range of body types and
sizes that they said were attractive, compared to the selections they made on
physical appearance alone.
Another study from a group of
Chinese universities found similar results. They took both men and women and
asked them to rate the attractiveness of a series of faces based only on
appearance. Two weeks later, the same group was given personality traits along
with the faces, and positive traits made faces more attractive. They even gave
it a name: the halo effect.
So what are some of the traits
connected with an increase in physical attraction? Honesty, respectfulness, and
a positive attitude. Almost all positive personality traits have been shown to
have a positive impact on what men think and how attractive they view potential
partners, leading some psychologists to suggest as much effort should be put
into the personality component of first impressions as the physical one.
Average
features

When it comes to facial
features, there is a certain set of characteristics that seems to hold
universal appeal. According to the book Falling in Love: Why We Choose the
Lovers We Choose, cross-cultural studies have shown a decided preference for
women who have big eyes, small noses, and full lips. Another study where men
looked at pictures of women from beauty pageants and college yearbooks found
that women with baby faces (small eyes, nose, and chin) and stereotypically
“sexy” women (high cheekbones, brows, wide pupils, and a broad smile)
were consistently ranked as the most attractive regardless of race.

While cultural standards of
beauty are constantly shifting, Nancy Etcoff, a Harvard brain researcher, said
that our perception of what is attractive is rooted in biology, not the media.
Women with “baby” features trigger a man’s protective instinct, which
served as an advantage in evolution. According to Etcoff, people find
“average features” the most attractive. One study mixed hundreds of
photos to create a composite. As more pictures were added to the composite, the
woman became more attractive to men. 
A
“medium” bust line

While it’s often thought that
bigger is better when it comes to breasts, studies have found that this isn’t
actually the case. It turns out that men are like Goldilocks when it comes to
busts: They like them neither too big nor too small. Instead, women with the
most attractive bodies are those who have medium sized breasts.

This doesn’t mean that men
aren’t attracted to larger breasts, though. A study from the 1960s had men rate
105 nude silhouettes. Most of them ranked the ones with medium bust lines as
more attractive than those with small or large breasts. In spite of this, those
same men still idealized women with larger chests, a find that was backed up by
two more studies in the 1970s.
Fashion runways are dominated
by slim women with small breasts, but society still seems to prefer more
curves. The bra industry supports the notion that bigger is better, which is perhaps
a driving force in men idealizing larger breasts in spite of an underlying
preference for medium breasts. It wasn’t too long after the modern bra debuted
in the early 20th century that padded bras hit the scene. By 1948, push-up
bras, which further accentuated the breasts, became popular. The average bra
size has gone up in America and England since the 1990s, largely thanks to
breast implants. 
Good
hair

Thanks to a 2013 survey
conducted by dating website Zoosk.com, which was detailed in HuffPost, we have
a lot of insight into what makes men tick — at least when it comes to hair. Out
of the men surveyed, 89 percent said that hair is the first thing that men
notice in a woman!

This find is particularly
interesting since 71 percent of women surveyed said that they don’t expect
potential love interests to even notice their hair. According to the survey,
most men prefer women to wear their hair down, and 29 percent said that they
want the “sock bun” hair trend to die out.
Men said that they are turned
off by greasy hair, hair that has too much product in it, and hair that is dyed
an unnatural color. This backs up scientific findings, which have shown that
men (at least on a subconscious level) look at hair as an indicator of health.
Healthy women typically have lustrous hair, which from a biological standpoint
indicates the ability to nurse potential offspring. Good hair provided an
evolutionary advantage, and that preference still carries over today.
Tattoos
and piercings

While the typical man is not a
fan of unnatural hair colors, their aversion to body modifications does not
extend to tattoos and piercings. A survey conducted by AskMen.com and HuffPost
asked men what they thought about tattoos and piercings on women. More than
1,300 men were surveyed. Out of them, 69 percent said they would be attracted
to a woman with a tattoo, and 55 percent said they would be attracted to a
woman with a piercing.

Men said that the most
attractive tattoos are on the shoulder/upper back, while the most attractive
piercing by far, with 61 percent of the vote, is a belly button piercing. The
preference for tattoos and piercings didn’t reflect the body modifications of
the men surveyed. Interestingly, only 32 percent of the surveyed men had tattoos,
while only 13 percent had piercings.
A study conducted by Nicolas
Guéguen of the Université Bretagne-Sud found that men often perceive women who
have tattoos and piercings to be more promiscuous. In the study, women with
tattoos were approached more than twice as much than those without visible
tattoos, and also made contact much faster with tattooed women. 
While the study was conducted
in France, where women have fewer tattoos than women in America — which
influences how they are perceived — his findings seem to indicate that men
think their chances of getting a date with a woman with a tattoo are higher.
Long
legs

When it comes to legs, it’s
all about the length. Studies show that men prefer women who have a longer
leg-to-body ratio, which might explain the popularity of high heels. The most
attractive women, according to men, are those who are short but have long legs.
Women with this body type include Scarlett Johansson and Marilyn Monroe. 

A study at Poland’s University
of Wroclaw found that legs that are 5 percent longer than the average were the
most attractive. Psychologist Boguslaw Pawlowski, the lead researcher on the
team, told New Scientist (via The Guardian) that “long legs are a sign of
health.”
Martin Tovee of Newcastle University
said that long legs do not just indicate good health but also good childhood
nutrition. Since women’s legs stop growing when they hit puberty, “if a
woman has long legs it suggests she grew up in a good environment and that has
a positive effect on fertility,” said Tovee.
Shorter
than them

In general, taller people tend
to be viewed as more authoritative and successful. The idea that taller people
are more powerful dates back to ancient times. Ancient Egyptian wall paintings
clearly equate height with power, while prehistoric tombs have been found where
skeletons of taller people are placed in crypts while those of shorter people
were buried in mass graves.

In spite of this, men seem to
prefer shorter women, or at least prefer women who are shorter than they are.
Even more paradoxically, one study found that in the Western world the women
who have the most children are those who are of below average height — a
pattern that surprised evolutionary scientists. 
Rebecca Sear, an evolutionary
ecologist quoted in The Tall Book: A Celebration of Life from on High said that
“tall women have wider pelvises than shorter women, which allow them to
have easier births and higher-birth-weight babies, both factors that reduce
infant and maternal mortality.”
There might be evolutionary
advantages to picking a taller woman as a mate, but both men and women seem to
prefer for the male partner to be taller than the women. Sear speculated that
this could be due to social norms, which expect that the man will be larger
than the woman, but also could be due to men wanting to appear to be more
dominant in the relationship. 
The
right kind of walk

It’s not enough to have the
right kind of legs or be just the right height. According to some studies, men
want women to walk the walk, too. A swinging gait reels men in. Researcher
Nicolas Guéguen found that women who are menstruating have a tendency to
subconsciously change how they walk, slowing their gait in a way that men
seemed to find more alluring.

The way a person walks is
unique to them, and can convey a lot more than simply getting from point a to
point b. One of the advantages of a person’s gait being used as a measure of
attractiveness is that it can be spotted from a distance. 
Biological anthropologist
Helen Fisher told Cosmopolitan that “The Walk” is just one of the
ways human women have developed “to get and keep a man’s attention as
we’ve evolved.” This particular gait is similar to the way a  model
struts down the runway: head up, shoulders back, arms swinging loosely with
swiveling hips.
The
color red

One of the stranger things
that attracts men is the color red. The color has long been associated with
love and passion and is considered to be an alluring color. For a long time,
scientists thought that this was because the color red subconsciously made men
think of a woman’s genitals, leading to sexual arousal. 

A study from the University of
Kent in the U.K. debunked that theory, however, by showing 40 men pictures of
the female vulva which had been manipulated to be different shades of pink and
red. The men rated the reddest shade to be less attractive than the pink
shades.
While this disproves the
theory of why men are attracted to the color red, men are still drawn to the
hue. Researcher Dr. Sarah E. Johns, a University of Kent professor of
Evolutionary Anthropology, hypothesized that the color red may trigger a
competitive edge in men, “so maybe men are more competitive about women in
red and therefore desire them more.”
The
perfect smile

It’s no great revelation that
a winning smile can attract a man, but women who are going to employ this
tactic might be surprised to learn that their smile has to be a big one.
Specifically, you need to bare those teeth. 

But it’s not just men who are
attracted to women with a toothy grin — women also said that they place a high
importance on teeth. MarketTools Inc. conducted an online survey of 5,481 for
Match.com (via USA Today). Both men and women said that the first thing they
notice in a potential love interest is their teeth, followed by their grammar.
Since teeth are the result of
both genetics and environmental factors, getting a peek into someone’s mouth
can give you an idea of their general health. In women, this is linked to their
reproductive value. Healthy teeth indicate a healthy person who is capable of
childbearing, which explains — at least from a biological standpoint — why
teeth play such a major role in human attraction.
Small
feet



Small feet have been
associated with femininity and beauty for centuries. The Chinese practice of
foot binding goes back to the 10th century and endured for a thousand years.
Young girls would have their feet broken and bound so that their feet would be
tiny, and therefore attractive. This would permanently cripple them, preventing
them from walking comfortably for the rest of their lives.

While people don’t go to such
extremes for small feet in modern times, dainty feet are still considered to be
attractive by men, at least indirectly.  A study conducted by the
University at Albany in New York showed men a composite face made of the faces
of women with small feet. They found it to be more attractive than the
composite made of the faces of eight women with large feet. The men didn’t just
overwhelmingly pick the composite of the small-footed women as more attractive,
but were also staggeringly more likely to say it was more feminine.
Evolutionary Jeremy Atkinson,
who conducted the study with colleague Michelle Rowe, said men might find the
features of the women with small-feet more attractive because they indicate a
healthy childhood. Women who have had a healthy childhood don’t reach puberty
as early, and end up growing for longer and developing more typically feminine
features.
SOURCE:
THELIST
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.