Visual perception of female physical attractiveness

Jintu Fan, F. Liu, J. Wu, W. Dai

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


On the basis of visual assessment of figure drawings and front/profile images, past researchers believed that the waist-hip ratio (WHR) and the body mass index (BMI) were two putative cues to female physical attractiveness. However, this view was not tested on three-dimensional (3D) female images. In the present study, 3D images of 31 Caucasian females having varying body weights (BMI ranged from 16 to 35) were shown to 29 male and 25 female viewers, who were asked to rate the physical attractiveness. The results showed that the body volume divided by the square of the height, defined as volume height index (VHI), is the most important and direct visual determinant of female physical attractiveness. In determining the female attractiveness, human observers may first use VHI as a visual cue, which is also a key indicator of health and fertility owing to its strong linear relation to BMI. To fine-tune the judgement, observers may then use body proportions, the most important of which are the ratio of waist height over the chin height (WHC) (a measure of the length of legs over total tallness) and the deviation of WHR from the ideal ratio. It also appears that the effect of the body's physical parameters on the perception of female physical attractiveness conforms to Stevens' power law of psychophysics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-352
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1537
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2004


  • Body mass index
  • Body shape
  • Deviation of waist-hip ratio
  • Female physical attractiveness
  • Volume height index
  • Waist height-chin height ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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