Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Misperceptions of opposite-sex preferences for thinness and muscularity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Open Access permissions



Thin and muscular have been characterized as ideals for women and men, respectively. Little research has investigated whether men and women have accurate perceptions of opposite‐sex preferences of thinness and muscularity. Further, no study has explored whether opposite‐sex perceptions of thinness and muscularity preferences differ for short‐term and long‐term relationships. The present study set out to address these questions. We used interactive 3D human models to represent bodies varying in size (body mass index/BMI weight scaled by height) and body composition. University‐aged (18–31) White European heterosexual men and women were asked to choose their own and ideal body shape, the ideal body shape for a short‐ and a long‐term partner, and the body shape they thought the opposite‐sex would most like for short‐ and long‐term partners. Women overestimated the thinness that men prefer in a partner and men overestimated the heaviness and muscularity that women prefer in a partner. These misperceptions were more exaggerated for short‐term relationships than for long‐term relationships. The results illustrate the importance of investigating misperceptions of opposite‐sex preferences and raise the possibility that correcting misperceptions might have utility in reducing body dissatisfaction or eating disorders.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
VolumeEarly View
Early online date25 May 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 May 2020

    Research areas

  • Attractiveness, Body size, Misperception, Muscularity, Preferences

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Skin color cues to human health: carotenoids, aerobic fitness, and body fat

    Perrett, D. I., Talamas, S., Cairns, P. & Henderson, A. J., 11 Mar 2020, In : Frontiers in Psychology. 11, 14 p., 392.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Immune function during early adolescence positively predicts adult facial sexual dimorphism in both men and women

    Foo, Y. Z., Simmons, L. W., Perrett, D. I., Holt, P., Eastwood, P. R. & Rhodes, G., 17 Feb 2020, In : Evolution and Human Behavior. In press

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Attraction to men and women predicts sexual dimorphism preferences

    Batres, C., Jones, B. C. & Perrett, D. I., 21 Jan 2020, In : International Journal of Sexual Health. Latest Articles

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Sex differences in confidence influence patterns of conformity

    Cross, C. P., Brown, G. R., Morgan, T. J. H. & Laland, K. N., Nov 2017, In : British Journal of Psychology. 108, 4, p. 655-667

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Serial killers, spiders and cybersex: social and survival information bias in the transmission of urban legends

    Stubbersfield, J. M., Tehrani, J. J. & Flynn, E. G., May 2015, In : British Journal of Psychology. 106, 2, p. 288-307 20 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Men's strategic preferences for femininity in female faces

    Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., Feinberg, D. R. & Perrett, D. I., Aug 2014, In : British Journal of Psychology. 105, 3, p. 364-381

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. From over-imitation to super-copying: Adults imitate causally irrelevant aspects of tool use with higher fidelity than young children

    McGuigan, N., Makinson, J. & Whiten, A., Feb 2011, In : British Journal of Psychology. 102, p. 1-18 18 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 267649508