Spring may be the mating season for most of the animal kingdom, but winter has its own appeal when it comes to men. A study published in the journal Perception found that men find women more attractive in the coldest season. How's that, with every bit of skin and all those curves well-covered by winter's required layers and bulk? Does this mean that we women don`t have to be so hard on ourselves when it comes to self-inspection in front of the mirror in our underwear?
By nature, humans exhibit seasonal variation in hormone levels, behavior and perception. This study found that men's assessments of women's attractiveness also change with the seasons. From winter 2004 to winter 2005, 114 heterosexual men were asked to assess the attractiveness of the same stimuli – photos of women, although not the airbrushed perfection of the models in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Still, we're sure the men didn't mind being part of this study; they find visual cues for sex naturally pleasing. (In other words, they can't help it.)
The men were shown a photo of women with three different waist-to-hip ratios. Larger hips to a smaller waist have been linked to attractiveness – the greater ratio is viewed as a symbol of fertility and proficient childbirth. The men were also shown photos of female breasts, and then photos of average-looking faces of young women. No Megan Fox in the bunch. For each season, the scores given to the stimuli of the same category – body shape, breast and face – were combined.
The study findings were the opposite of what you might expect. While the scores for pretty faces remained about the same throughout, the highest scores for overall attractiveness were given in winter and the lowest in summer.
Researchers say the seasonality in the findings is related to what scientists call the "contrast effect." More frequent exposure to women's bodies in warmer seasons might increase men's attractiveness criteria for women's body shape and breasts.
When so much bare skin and body curves are revealed in hot, sunny weather, men instinctively become more critical. There's more to see, so their expectations are raised. No matter how much you flaunt your figure in a bathing suit – you've worked out all year, so a little strut on the shoreline is deserved – taking your date to a hot tub party in the winter might score you more points.
Women tend to be hard on themselves when it comes to their own attractiveness. It's an easy trap to fall into with a culture obsessed with celebrity, youth and air-brushed beauty. Notes to take away from this study include the fact that men are hard-wired to respond in a certain way when it comes to initial attraction, but the surface is only skin-deep. Building a relationship has a lot more to do with finding and exploring each other's interests and compatibility, beyond the first blush.
Next, if you're single and looking for romance, winter is not the time to stay holed up at home. Since men find women more attractive at this time of year, take advantage of this knowledge and get out there – join a group, take a class, try speed-dating, or join your girls for a night out on the town. You're sure to shine, even if the weather doesn't.
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