Men & Women Don't Know What The Other Gender Finds Attractive, Study Finds

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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We all have our perceptions about what potential partners may find attractive. But according to new research by the University of St. Andrews in the U.K., the common perceptions of what men and women find attractive may actually be way off. In their study, researchers found women overestimate men's attraction to thinness, and men overestimate women's attraction to muscles.

Confusion over what's attractive.

To conduct their research, the team gathered 169 straight men and women between the ages of 17 and 26. All of the participants were asked to describe what their current body type was. Then, using an app, the participants were instructed to manipulate and morph images of the other gender to look like their preferential ideal body type. So men designed a female body to show what they found attractive, and women did the same for a male body.

They also were instructed to design the ideal body of their own gender. So men manipulated male bodies and women manipulated female bodies to show what they assumed the other gender was looking for as far as body type. They did this twice, once with short-term relationships in mind and once with long-term relationships in mind.

And based on the findings, there appear to be some misconceptions.

Believe it or not, both men and women seemed to misconstrue what the other gender was looking for as far as body type. Namely, men thought women wanted someone more muscular, and women thought men wanted someone more thin.

"Women tend to overestimate the thinness of female bodies that men prefer, and men tend to overestimate the muscularity of male bodies that women prefer," the researchers explain in the paper in their findings. "Moreover, these misperceptions are more exaggerated for short‐term relationships."

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The takeaway.

Overall, it seems the biggest takeaway is we're all a bit too hard on ourselves when it comes to what we think a potential partner might be looking for. And further, these misperceptions can have damaging effects.

According to the researchers, previous research has shown that women's misperception of men's preference for thinness is linked with eating disorders. That goes for men too, where rather than undereating for thinness, they may overexercise. And the more emphasis either places on these ideas of attractiveness, the unhealthier they may behave. The authors believe correcting these misperceptions "might help to prevent and treat eating disorders or body dissatisfaction among young men and women."

If you or someone you know struggles with body image, the good news is, it would seem there may not be as much to worry about as some may have thought, as far as attracting a partner. And if you're still on a self-love journey, consider these 20 ways to start loving your body for you.

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