The Science of a Butterface
At the risk of alienating any females in the audience, today we’re going to discuss… the science of a butterface. What’s a butterface? No, not a face carved into butter patty (pictured, right). I’ll defer to Urban Dictionary:
A girl with an exceptionally hot body but an exceptionally ugly face. Everything but-her-face is attractive.
Google images might also help you get your mind around the concept.
Regardless… where were we?
Oh, right. Science!
A research team out in Texas decided to tackle the concept of butterfaces through the lens of evolutionary psychology. (We have people tackling concepts through lenses today. Metaphor status: Awesome.) How’d they do that? They asked 375 college students to pick whether to date someone based on either seeing just their face or their body.
And they were given two conditions: 1) a long-term relationship, 2) a short-term relationship.
Everyone in both conditions preferred to see the face… except for one gender in one condition. And, yes, you guessed that gender correctly (male) and that condition (short term).
For a short-term relationship, men were as likely to say they wanted to see the face as the body. 50-50. For long-term, 75% of men wanted to see the face.
Frankly, this is probably “better” than most people would expect men to do on such a measure, given cultural jokes about how men think about women. But why the difference?
“Cues of immediate fertility which are more important to a man pursuing short term relationships are more densely concentrated in her body than in her face. Where as her face may have more cues of reproductive value like age and health,” researcher David Buss told Scientific American.
And what kind of cues for the long-term does the face have that the body doesn’t? “Skin and wrinkling gives a cue to her age – men … want to make sure she’s not at the tail end of the fertility window.” While such cues are also present in the body, they’re more concentrated in the face.
Women, meanwhile, show no difference when considering long-term versus short-term. “There is not this huge discrepancy in cues that women are interested in, like his good genes cues and good dad cues, health and symmetry. Those are present in face and body equally, more so in men.”
These results match up with earlier research, such as this study (abstract), which found that when people were asked to rate faces and bodies separately, and then together, the faces were most predictive of the combined ratings. But there also: “Females showed no difference in ratings between short- and long-term conditions, but male ratings of female bodies became relatively more important for a short-term relationship compared with a long-term relationship.”
So, men may sort of be pigs. But we’re bigger pigs when it comes to a one-night stand. For the long haul, we seem to take a broader view.
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