Scientists have long had the view that females, at least in many mammalian species, have evolved to prefer the strongest males. According to research from Griffith University, the same is true of humans.
A study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, tested how important physical strength is to men’s bodily attractiveness.
Women were asked they how attractive they found men’s bodies as displayed in a series of pictures.
The results showed that it was possible to almost perfectly predict how attractive a man’s body is from three things: how physically strong he looks; how tall he is; and how lean he is.
Dr Aaron Sell from Griffith’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice says cues of upper body strength make a man attractive, including having wider shoulders, being physically fit and having greater handgrip strength.
“Evolutionary psychologists have shown that women’s mate choices use many cues of men’s genetic quality and ability to invest resources in the woman and her offspring,” he says.
“Among our ancestors, one variable that predicted both a man’s genetic quality and his ability to invest was the man’s formidability.
“Therefore, modern women should still have mate choice mechanisms that respond to cues of a man’s fighting ability.
“One crucial component of a man’s ability to fight was his upper body strength.”
The effect of strength was so large that none of the 150 women in the study preferred weak men.
And looking strong was much more important for man’s attractiveness than being tall or lean.
“The rated strength of a male body accounts for a full 70% of the variance in attractiveness,” says Sell.
“The effect of height and weight on attractiveness may indicate that women are responding to cues of health or to the benefits that height and lean bodies have in protracted aggression, hunting and other aspects of fighting ability.”
Other research shows that when it comes to faces women don’t always prefer the strongest looking.
Of course, physical attractiveness isn’t the whole story.
Previous research shows that women prefer the smell of certain men over others.
And even being clean shaven or not has an impact. Researchers at the University of New South Wales reported that women said the most attractive beard length was heavy stubble.
This story has been updated since its original publication.