The effect of ecological harshness on perceptions of the ideal female body size: An experimental life history approach

Sarah E. Hill, Danielle J. Delpriore, Christopher D. Rodeheffer, Max E. Butterfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Why do researchers regularly observe a relationship between ecological conditions and the heaviness of female body weight ideals? The current research uses insights from life history theory and female reproductive physiology to examine whether variability in female body ideals might emerge from the different life history strategies typically adopted by individuals living in harsh versus benign ecologies. Across three experiments, we demonstrate that women who were sensitized to faster life history strategies during childhood - as indexed by earlier menarche or lower childhood SES - respond to cues of ecological harshness by shifting away from the thin body weight typically favored by Western women toward a heavier female body ideal. Additionally, although men's perceptions of the ideal male body size did not shift in response to these cues, their perceptions of the ideal female body size did, with developmentally sensitized men also preferring a heavier female body size in the context of harsh ecologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-154
Number of pages7
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume35
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of ecological harshness on perceptions of the ideal female body size: An experimental life history approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this