A tantalizing study has provided new insight into how the Internet might be shaping what we look for in an ideal mate.
In a world where the fashion industry and magazines are often blamed for controlling standards of beauty, psychologists at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland revealed the Internet may have the most impact on what people find attractive- those with access to the Internet tend to prefer stereotypically masculine and feminine body types, while those without Internet prefer men who appeared more feminine and vice versa.
"We take the internet for granted, yet in much of the word there is a 'digital divide' that separates people living with and without luxuries," David Perrett, lead psychologist at the university's Perception Lab, said according to The Huffington Post. "So it should not be surprising that people in very different circumstances have different priorities for qualities in a spouse."
In El Salvador, where most residents do not have access to the web, researchers showed 200 men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 faces in sets of two. The participants were asked which face in the pair they considered more attractive and then filled out a questionnaire about their access to the Internet, TV and running water.
Results showed that participants who used the Internet chose thinner female faces and male faces that were wider and more masculine, according to The Huffington Post.
"One possibility for the difference is the level of media exposure: people with Internet access are more exposed to the media (adverts or websites), which promotes the beauty ideals of muscly men and thin feminine women," said psychologist Carlota Batres, the Perception Lab student who conducted the El Salvador study.
The study provides insight into another possible theory on how human preferences change with their circumstances. Lack of Internet access correlated with lack of access to running water, indicating a low income household. Those same people also tended to prefer wider female faces.
"When income and access to food is uncertain, heavier women may be better equipped to survive and reproduce and therefore preferences for heavier women could be adaptive," Batres said.