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Discussion

Crosstabs were run on ten different dependent variables in relation to the sex and race of each participant. Data analysis revealed a statistically significant relationship between seven of the dependent variables—the participants' preferences in a woman's skin color, hair type, hair length, hair color, height, breast size, and makeup look—and their sex. The eye color, body type, and butt size chosen as the most physically attractive did not have a statistically significant relationship with the sex of the participant. The results in Tables 2 through 11 show that men in this study think that a woman who is between 5'3" and 5'6", who has an hourglass body shape, large breasts, a medium-sized butt, fair skin, green eyes, and straight hair that is medium-length and either dark brown or blond, and who wears little makeup so that it looks natural, is the most physically attractive. On the other hand, while the women in this study would agree with the men that a woman is most attractive if she is between 5'3" and 5'6", has an hourglass body shape, large breasts, a medium-sized butt, fair skin, and green eyes, and wears little makeup, they think that the most beautiful hair is dark brown, wavy, and long. The men and women in this study thus agreed on seven traits and differed on three.

Data analysis in this study shows a statistically significant relationship between five of the variables—the participants' preferences in a woman's skin color, eye color, hair type, hair color, and body type—and their race. The hair length, height, breast size, butt size, and makeup look a participant chose as the most physically attractive did not seem to have a statistically significant relationship with the race of the participant. The results in Tables 12 through 21 show that in this study white students think that a woman who is between 5'3" and 5'6", has fair skin and green eyes, dark brown hair that is long and straight, large breasts, a medium-sized butt, and an hourglass body shape, and wears little makeup is the most attractive. While the Hispanic students in this study would agree with the white students that a woman who is between 5'3" and 5'6", has green eyes, dark brown hair that is long, a medium-sized butt, an hourglass body type, and wears natural makeup is the most attractive, they think that bronze skin, wavy hair, and either medium or large breasts are the most beautiful. Black students in this study agree with white and Hispanic students that long hair, an hourglass body shape, a medium-sized butt, a height range between 5'3" and 5'6", and natural makeup is the most attractive. However, they would define light brown eyes, light brown/caramel skin, medium breasts, and black wavy hair as being the most appealing. The Asian/Pacific Islanders in this study also find long hair, medium-sized breasts and butt, and natural makeup the most attractive, but they think that olive skin, the thin-all-over body type, either green or blue eyes, dark brown straight hair, and a height range between 5' and 5'2" is the most appealing. The students in this study that identified as "other" think that a woman who is between 5'3" and 5'6", has light brown/caramel skin, green eyes, dark brown long or medium-length straight hair, an hourglass body type, medium breasts, and a medium-sized butt, and wears natural/little makeup is the most attractive.

From all of this, it can be concluded that while many similarities do exist between the physical characteristics that men, women, and individuals from different racial groups define as the most physically attractive in women, differences linked to sex and race are evident as well. There is a statistically significant relationship between the skin color, hair type, hair length, hair color, height, breast size, and makeup look (even though some of the results are very close) that each sex considers the most attractive for women. Likewise, there is a statistically significant relationship between the skin color, eye color, hair type, hair color, and body type that each racial group chose as the most appealing. This study illustrates that answers to questions asking what is the most attractive when it comes to female physical appearance may vary between the sexes and among different racial groups, depending on the characteristic being discussed.

This study fits in with the studies in the literature review through its examination, discussion, and focus on the topic of female beauty and physical attractiveness. Its findings were both similar to and different from a few of the studies previously mentioned. In comparison to the study conducted by Feinman and Gill (1978), which found that men revealed a "somewhat greater preference for lighter female coloration," this study also found that the largest proportion of men (45%) chose fair skin as the most attractive. Similarly to the study done by Brown, Cash, and Noles (1986), this study found that both facial and bodily attributes are of great importance when determining the attractiveness of (in this case) females. In light of past research, these findings are relevant because they support the idea that perceptions of overall physical attractiveness are based on several different factors.

In their study, Freedman, Carter, Sbrocco, and Gray (2007) found that, contrary to popular societal expectations, African American males did not choose the heavier female figures predicted to be their ideal. The present study supports that finding, as most of the blacks surveyed chose the hourglass body type as the most attractive. It also depicts the similarities and differences in what is defined as beautiful across different racial/ethnic groups just as the study done by Cunningham, Roberts, Barbee, Druen, & Wu (1995) did, and suggests that among certain groups same-race preferences might in fact exist.

The results of this study revealed that preferences in skin color seemed to be related to the skin colors most often found among the racial group of the respondent. For the other preferences, too, it was found that participants seemed to choose characteristics that were not uncommon to their own racial and ethnic groups. When looking at the answers of both male and female white and black respondents in this study, it was found that patterns emerged in the data and that respondents seemed to be more drawn to characteristics that represented themselves. This was especially true for skin color, hair color, and eye color. While statistical analyses are precluded by the sample size of participants, comparisons can be made. Among black men light brown/caramel skin, black hair, and light brown eyes were the top choices, whereas among white men fair skin, dark brown or light brown hair, and green or blue eyes were the top preferences. Among black women, light brown/caramel or medium-brown skin, black hair, and light brown eyes were the top choices, whereas among white women, fair skin, dark brown hair, and green eyes, followed closely by blue, were the top preferences. This suggests that people often find what is similar in appearance to themselves (or their racial group) attractive. The "similarity-attraction effect" described by Jones and his colleagues (2003) is apparent in this study.

Conclusion >>