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Research Article The Symptoms of Resource Scarcity Judgments of Food and Finances Influence Preferences for Potential Partners

By Leif D. Nelson and Evan L. Morrison


ABSTRACT—Male preferences for female body weight follow a consistent cross-cultural pattern such that in cultures with scarce resources, heavier women are preferred, whereas in cultures with abundant resources, thinner women are preferred. We offer a social-cognitive account for these findings based on the individual experience of resource scarcity. In four studies (N 5 1,176), we explored the possibility that this cross-cultural relationship emerges at the individual level; that is, we investigated whether situational feelings of resource scarcity predict personal preferences within a single culture. We operationalized intraindividual resource scarcity through feelings of financial and caloric dissatisfaction. Accordingly, we hypothesized—and found—that men who feel either poor or hungry prefer heavier women than men who feel rich or full. We discuss these findings in terms of how patterns of cross-cultural norms may be evinced at the individual level through an implicit psychological mechanism. In their classic study of human sexual behavior, Ford and Beach (1951) stated that ‘‘the cross-cultural evidence makes it clear that there are few, if any, universal standards of sexual attractiveness’’ (p. 86). Subsequent research, however, has documented several apparent universals in preferences for romantic partners. Across all cultures, men care more than women about physical features in potential mates (Buss, 1994); men seek youth (Buss, 1989), facial averageness (Rhodes et al., 2001), and low waist-to-hip ratio (Singh, 1993; Singh & Young, 1995)

Year: 2008
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