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The Happiness Connection  

You're looking fertile

With beach season approaching, magazines covers are trying to entice you to buy them with promises of weight loss and toning secrets you can’t live without.

It is a common theme for this time of year.

Body image is a problem many people face daily. It doesn’t just raise its ugly head when you think about donning a bathing suit.

For most of my life, the person I saw in the mirror looked drastically different than the person other people saw. I believed I was much bigger than I was. It didn’t matter how much I weighed, I thought I was drastically heavier.

This was my pattern, even when I was slim. Twiggy was the image of perfection shown by the media when I was growing up. My skeleton doesn’t look like Twiggy did in her heyday.

The point of this column isn’t to talk about self-image, although there is a lot I could say on that subject. Instead, I want to share the findings of a recent study that looked at whether facial or bodily traits were more important when choosing an opposite-sex partner.

Carin Perilloux and Jaime Cloud asked 250 people to imagine they were single and then design an ideal mate. They were then given a list of traits. Half of them were facial and half were body related. They were instructed to give each characteristic a value between zero (worst possible) and 10 (best possible.)

To avoid people creating the perfect person who was a 10 in every category, each person was given a budget, or number of total points they could use. Some participants were given a large budget of 70 points while others were given only 30.

Each person was randomly placed into one of two groups. The first was asked to design a partner for a long-term relationship and the other for a short-term one like a holiday fling or one-night stand.

Regardless of their budget or whether they were thinking about a long or short-term partner, women gave more points to facial characteristics.

It might surprise you to find that men in the study did the same thing. They gave more points to facial traits - with one exception. Those men with a lower point budget who were designing an opposite-sex partner for a fling, allocated more points to bodily traits than facial ones.

As I’m writing, I am aware that this could seem like a very shallow conversation. What you look like isn’t and shouldn’t be the basis for choosing a mate, and yet it is - subconsciously.

Humans are programmed for survival. To survive as a species, you need to create strong, healthy children. You are unconsciously choosing a mate who will provide you the best chance of doing that.

Evolutionary psychology is a fascinating branch of science that studies how the programming that kept humans alive thousands of years ago is still with you today. Your environment has changed, but your programming hasn’t.

Men see long-term reproductive potential best by looking at a woman’s face. Is her complexion good, does she have deep wrinkles? Short-term fertility is better judged by her body. You may not be conscious of this programming, but if you are male it strongly influences who you are attracted to.

These findings are consistent with what has already been discovered by previous research, but something new was uncovered as well.

Why did men with a larger points budget who were looking for a short-term partner give more points to facial traits? Aren’t they all programmed to concentrate on body characteristics if they are looking for a fling?

The points budgets simulated whether the person was a good catch or not. Those with more points, represented males who found it easy to attract a mate. Once her body was thought of as able to reproduce, their attention turned to facial traits.

As far as women are concerned, there is no reason to assume that a man’s body will determine how fertile he is, so we are not programmed to give it as much attention. We tend to focus on facial characteristics.

I am not sharing this so you can now worry about whether your face is pretty or virile enough to find a partner or keep the one you have.

Good health shines out of your skin and your eyes. Don’t worry about carrying extra weight, or whether you are an apple or a pear. Instead put your efforts into being healthy.

Your face is the thing most people are attracted to, so make it shine with wellness. Just like you’ve been hearing for years:

  • drink lots of water
  • eat well
  • exercise regularly
  • take time for good grooming and self-care.


More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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