Academic journals note Tassinary’s studies
eying perceptions of physical attractiveness


Research investigating the nature of physical attractiveness published by a Texas A&M visualization professor and colleagues continues to garner mentions in academic journals.

An article by three Australian researchers appearing in the May 21, 2009 issue of Behavioral Ecology cited the work of Lou Tassinary, executive associate dean of the Texas A&M College of Archtecture, and his former students Kristi Hansen and Kerri Johnson showing that body shape and the way we walk hold major cues to our attractiveness to others.

Tassinary and Hansen used a multifactorial design to show that preference for waist-hip ratios is influenced by absolute waist and hip size and by weight. The Australians’ paper also cited a similar study by Tassinary and Johnson, who is now an assistant professor at UCLA.

The new study, “Beyond waist–hip ratio: experimental multivariate evidence that average women’s torsos are most attractive,” confirmed and expanded the Texas A&M research teams’ findings. Collaborating on the Australian study were Misha L. Donohoe and Robert C. Brooks, from the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales, and William von Hippel from the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland.

The Australians noted that further study was warranted since the 1998 publication of Tassinary’s research “due to significant refinements in the use of factorial experimental designs to test hypotheses regarding physical attractiveness.” The new study employed a process combining the multivariate manipulation of experimental stimuli with evolutionary selection analysis. They tested the linear and nonlinear effects of waist, hip, and shoulder width and the interactions of these traits on the attractiveness of 200 line-drawn models to 100 men.

The Australian team confirmed the findings of Tassinary’s earlier study and highlighted the strong integration of and interrelationships among different parts of the body as determinates of attractiveness.

The paper is available online at

Additionally, a chapter penned by Johnson and Tassinary for the book, “The Body Beautiful: Evolutionary and Socio-Cultural Perspectives,” was reviewed in the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.

According to reviewer Ian Penton-Voak, a reader at the University of Bristol's Department of Experimental Psychology, Johnson & Tassinary’s approach is laudable for its use of dynamic stimuli that facilitates the study of how movement and shape cues combine when viewers judge attractiveness.

“This is methodologically advanced work that uses, largely, animations of walkers who differ in both anatomical and behavioral sex-typicality, through the manipulations of shape cues and walking style,” he wrote. “Their model of ‘cue compatibility’ makes, as the authors note, some very interesting predictions were it to be used in a cross-cultural context.”

Penton-Voak’s review, which can be viewed in PDF format at, also noted that Tassinary and Johnson’s research has resulted in high-profile publications in Psychological Science in 2005 and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in 2007.

Tassinary also serves as associate dean for research and director of graduate studies at the Texas A&M University College of Architecture. His research focuses on person perception, environmental psychophysiology, neuroscience and non-invasive physiological recording techniques.


- Posted: July 8, 2009 -

- the end -


Lou Tassinary
Professor of Visualizaztion
Executive Associate Dean

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