Scientists still haven’t figured out exactly why humans are attracted to each other. According to a controversial 2017 study from the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers claim evolutionary reasons for attraction, while anthropologists say culture is actually the most important factor in determining how we rate attractiveness.
In the study, female subjects were given a set of photos, each of men’s torsos — no faces, just their bodies — and were then asked to pick which male they found more attractive. The team of psychologists found that of the 160 women, zero of them considered the male with a weaker-looking torso to be the more attractive of the two.
With that, the psychologists determined the study conclusive, chalking it up to evolution. Our female ancestors would have preferred a stronger man who could win fights and hunt animals, right? Well, maybe.
The study suggests that biology dictates what people find attractive, but the scientists left one crucial factor out of their study: They didn’t interview any of the women about why they chose the more muscular men.
Anthropologists believe the reason we find someone attractive is heavily influenced by our culture. We consider celebrities to be good-looking because, with the sway of magazines, movies, and ads, that’s what we’re trained to think.
This also changes with the times. In the 1930s, boxer-bods were in. By the ‘70s, we liked mustaches and a lot of body hair, and in the ‘90s, we loved big butts. We adjust what we find appealing as the public opinion also changes.
But, without more data, and especially without even interviewing test subjects, it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly what is responsible for Harry Styles making us swoon.
Subscribe to Inverse on YouTube for more curiosity-sparking journalism.