Friday, February 7, 2014

Do good looks mean you're more fit?

Posted by Jessica Abbott on behalf of Qinyang Li
File:TourDeFrance 2005 07 09.jpg

Hello everyone, next lab meeting I suggest we can discuss the studies and evolutionary theories about human facial attractiveness and their physical performance. There are some papers published on this topic, but we will focus on the most recent one. In this study, elite male cyclists were chosen as test subject since endurance is a strong predictor of fitness. The ratings on their attractiveness turned out to be positively correlated with their performance.

Females often prefer to mate with high quality males, and one aspect of quality is physical performance. Although a preference for physically fitter males is therefore predicted, the relationship between attractiveness and performance has rarely been quantified. Here, I test for such a relationship in humans and ask whether variation in (endurance) performance is associated with variation in facial attractiveness within elite professional cyclists that finished the 2012 Tour de France. I show that riders that performed better were more attractive, and that this preference was strongest in women not using a hormonal contraceptive. Thereby, I show that, within this preselected but relatively homogeneous sample of the male population, facial attractiveness signals endurance performance. Provided that there is a relationship between performance-mediated attractiveness and reproductive success, this suggests that human endurance capacity has been subject to sexual selection in our evolutionary past.


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