Men prefer women with small feet - though they might not be aware of it, says a new study.
Jeremy Atkinson, an evolutionary psychologist at the University at Albany, New York, and his colleague Michelle Rowe measured hand length, foot length, thigh length and hip width on 60 white female college students, then adjusted each measurement to account for individual differences in overall height.
For each of 16 body-part measurements, they selected the eight women with the shortest lengths and the eight with the longest, and constructed morphs of their faces.
The researchers found that men were three-and-a-half times as likely to pick the short-footed morph as more attractive, and almost 10 times as likely to say it was more feminine.
Similarly, they were more than 11 times as likely to pick the narrow-hipped morph as more attractive, and eight times as likely to choose the long-thighed morph.
Atkinson believes that men find these features attractive because they serve as markers of a healthy childhood. Biologists know that stress and poor nutrition during fetal development and puberty can affect sex hormone levels and cause earlier puberty.
This can leave such women relatively short and stout, while those with a more benign childhood continue growing for longer, and attain a slenderer, more stereotypically feminine face and body, which most men find more attractive.
The research was reported at a meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Eugene, Oregon.