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Internet Determines What is Deemed Attractive

Update Date: Jul 11, 2014 03:51 PM EDT

The Internet and social media can have a huge influence on people's perception of what is beautiful, a new study reported. Researchers from the University of St. Andrews found that people who use the Internet frequently find masculine men and slimmer, feminine women the most attractive.

For this study headed by psychologist Carlota Batres, the team recruited 69 men and 83 women residing in El Salvador where the Internet is not easily accessible. Only 31 men and 40 women have Internet in their homes. The researchers tested the influence of two factors, called sexual dimorphism and facial adiposity on attractiveness by presenting the participants pictures of different people. The participants had to rate the people's level of attractiveness. Sexual dimorphism is defined as the noticeable difference between masculine and feminine facial features whereas facial adiposity refers to the perception of weight based on facial features.

The researchers found that in the group of Internet users, there were no differences in their rating of attractiveness for men and women. When the researchers compared the participants' perception of attractiveness between groups, they found that people with Internet were more likely to find masculine men and skinnier, feminine women more attractive. People without Internet found feminine men and heavier, masculine women as attractive.

"One possibility for the difference is the level of media exposure: people with internet access are more exposed to the media (adverts or websites), which promotes the beauty ideals of muscly men and thin feminine women." Batres reasoned according to Medical Xpress.

Professor and fellow researcher of the study, David Perrett from the Perception Lab at St. Andrews, added, "One possibility is that the harshness of the environment may influence face preferences. People without Internet in the El Salvador study had fewer resources - such as no running water - and such harshness may be responsible for what they find attractive. When income and access to food is uncertain, heavier women may be better equipped to survive and reproduce and therefore preferences for heavier women could be adaptive. Our findings are consistent with previous literature that has found that heavier figures are considered more attractive in poorer and rural areas."

The study, "The Influence of the Digital Divide on Face Preferences in El Salvador: People without Internet Access Prefer More Feminine Men, More Masculine Women, and Women with Higher Adiposity," was published in PLOS ONE.

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