The internet is changing what we find attractive

Christine Bohan

What kind of people did you think were hot a decade ago? Has it changed much? (If you can remember that far back…).

The internet is changing what we find attractive, according to new research by scientists at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Take a look at these pictures. Which person do you think is more attractive?

male face
male face

And again, which person is more attractive?

female face
female face

If you went with the person on the left on both cases, you’re not alone: the researchers found that people who have access to the internet prefer more ‘masculine-looking’ men, and women who are thinner and ‘more feminine’.

The psychologists said that the internet and the media push portrayals of certain types of attractiveness, citing the recent film Noah, in which Russell Crowe played the male lead and Jennifer Connelly played the female lead.

It is the first time that researchers have compared the facial preferences of people with internet access to those without access in the same country. Participants were asked to choose between photographs of people of different weights and with typically masculine or feminine features or ones that were markedly lower.

Researchers found participants who had access to the internet almost exclusive preferred the faces that the internet might suggest are more attractive. However non-internet users found feminine men and masculine, heavier women more 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,” said psychologist Carlota Batres, who led the study.

Another possibility is that the findings may be influenced by the economic circumstances in El Salvador, where they carried out the study. 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,” said Professor David Perrett of St Andrews.

So there you go. It might explain why Ryan Gosling is generally considered attractive now but wouldn’t have been back in 1994. Possibly.

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