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How complexion sparks desire

world Updated: Mar 17, 2008 00:20 IST
How complexion sparks desire

Ever wondered why men are attracted to fair-complexioned females while women prefer the dark and brooding types? The attraction is evidently 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.

“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 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 — 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."

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