Internet use alters perceptions of beauty

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A study by University of St Andrews scientists has found that access to the internet changes the qualities people find attractive in other people.

The first study of its kind, it compared people with internet access to those in the same country without. The results showed that those with internet access found traditionally masculine men and thin, feminine women more attractive. This suggests that the internet is able to propagate certain ideals for men and women, as is done on television and in other forms of media.

Carlota Batres, a postgraduate candidate, and Professor David Perett conducted the study in El Salvador, a central American country in which 26 per cent of the population has access to the internet. Ms Batres said that “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.”

Ms Batres also commented on the significance of proving that even within a small country, population subsets can have differing beauty ideals.

Among the participants with internet access, there was no difference in who they found more attractive. These participants believed that the men and women whose faces were traditionally masculine or feminine, respectively, were more attractive.  However, those without internet were more likely to find traditionally masculine women or effeminate men to be more attractive.

The study also noted that those with internet access were more likely to have televisions in their homes, which would further expose them to the influence of the media and perhaps further influence their ideals of beauty.

Professor Perett noted that, as heavier women were treated more favorably in areas without internet, it is possible that heavier women were perceived as hardier in harsh environments where running water might not exist.  He said that “our findings are consistent with previous literature that has found that heavier figures are considered more attractive in poorer and rural areas.”

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