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Characteristics of physical attractiveness. Shape processing of dressed and naked realistic female bodies varying in WHR and observer perspective in heterosexual men and women: behavioral and electrophysiological experiments

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Denomination Maîtrise universitaire en psychologie
Defense Maîtrise : Univ. Genève, 2011
Abstract The WHR, reflecting the fat distribution, is a relevant measure of female physical attractiveness and an indicator of female health and reproductive capacity. Previous studies mainly investigated the divergence of WHR preferences between cultures and brain areas and body processing in relation with face processing, body motions or body expressions. However, no study has investigated the characteristics of physical attractiveness in heterosexual observers at behavioral and electrophysiological levels. The purpose of this study was thus to investigate with a behavioral experiment the characteristics of physical attractiveness of naked and dressed female bodies, presented in different Waist-to-Hip Ratios (WHRs of 0.6, 0.7, 0.8 and 0.9) and from two perspectives (back and front) in heterosexual observers of both genders, and, secondly, to investigate the time course of cerebral activation for these biologically relevant sexual stimuli with an electrophysiological experiment. We wanted to investigate whether the N190 and P1 components were modulated by stimuli evaluated as more physically attractive in the previous behavioral experiment. We proceeded with two experiments, one evaluating the judgment of physical attractiveness at a behavioral level by asking participants (mean age: 27.9 years) to rate the level of attractiveness of female bodies and the other one investigating the brain activation associated with these stimuli that participants (mean age: 25.6 years) see scrolling on a screen. In the behavioral experiment, naked female bodies with a WHR of 0.7 seen from the back were evaluated as more physically attractive for both gender. In the electrophysiological experiment, the P1 occurred between 122 ms and 162 ms after stimulus onset and peaked at 144 ms on average, whereas the N190 was observed between 158 ms and 217 ms, with mean peak at 185 ms in the occipital cortex. The processing of the female body shape thus occurs very early, during the first 200 ms of viewing. The N190 and P1 components were sensitive to the categories related to our female bodies (i.e., WHR, clothing and perspective). The N1 seems more sensitive to the whole body shape, whereas the P1 seems more sensitive to body features like the WHR. Consequently, this study yields important results for the relevant characteristics of perceived sexual attractiveness of female bodies and their underlying cerebral mechanisms.
Keywords Female physical attractivenessWaist-to-hip ratio (WHR)Secondary sexual characteristicsBody shape processingElectroencephalographyVisual body perceptionSexual behavior
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NUSSBAUM, Sophie. Characteristics of physical attractiveness. Shape processing of dressed and naked realistic female bodies varying in WHR and observer perspective in heterosexual men and women: behavioral and electrophysiological experiments. Université de Genève. Maîtrise, 2011. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:17866

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Deposited on : 2011-12-20

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