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Skin attractions

india Updated: Mar 17, 2008 19:45 IST
PTI
Highlight Story

Have you ever wondered why men are attracted to fair-complexioned females while women prefer the dark and brooding types? Well, the attraction is driven by preferences based on moral assumptions, says a study.

Researchers have found that men are subconsciously attracted to fairer skin due to its association with purity, innocence, modesty and goodness, while women feel that darker complexions are associated with sex, virility and danger.

"What the research shows is that our aesthetic preferences operate to reflect moral preferences. Within our cultures, we have a set of ideals about how women should look and behave". <b1>

"Lightness and darkness have particular meanings attached to them and we subconsciously relate those moral preferences to women," The Independent quoted the study's lead author Dr Shyon Baumann of Toronto University as saying.

The researchers came to the conclusion after they analysed over 2,000 advertising photographs of men and women.

They found that the skin of white women was 15.2 per cent lighter than the skin of white males while the skin of black women 11.1 per cent was lighter than the skin of black men.

According to the researchers, many judgements about beauty are made at a conscious level, such as about leg length, height, weight and the shape of the nose as well as the mouth.

"In contrast, other physical attractiveness ideals, including complexion are made at the subconscious level."

When the researchers analysed adverts featuring white women only, they found that females with darkest complexions were more likely to be in an advanced state of undress. They were also more likely to have a bared midriff and only they are shown with bared feet or are implied to be totally nude.

The darkest-complexioned women in this group were also likely to be provocatively dressed, wearing underwear or similar clothing. Women with the lightest complexion are more likely to be conservatively dressed and portrayed as friendly, happy and honest.

According to the researchers, the scale of the differences between male and female skin colour selected for their attractiveness is too big to be explained by pure biology.

"I contend the complexion findings should be understood as a product of deeply rooted and enduring cultural values. My argument to explain the findings has two key features".

"First, it is based on the meanings that lightness and darkness have in our culture. Second, it highlights the links between moral and aesthetic judgements. Physical lightness and darkness are aesthetic characteristics that exemplify the link between aesthetic and moral judgements".

"On average, fair complexions in women are the dominant aesthetic ideal as sexual modesty and conventional femininity are the dominant behavioural ideal for women," Dr Baumann said.

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