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Psychol Sci. 2005 Feb;16(2):167-73.

The symptoms of resource scarcity: judgments of food and finances influence preferences for potential partners.

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  • 1Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University, NY, USA.


Male preferences for female body weight follow a consistent cross-cultural pattern such that in cultures with scarce resources, heavier women are preferred, whereas in cultures with abundant resources, thinner women are preferred. We offer a social-cognitive account for these findings based on the individual experience of resource scarcity. In four studies (N=1,176), we explored the possibility that this cross-cultural relationship emerges at the individual level; that is, we investigated whether situational feelings of resource scarcity predict personal preferences within a single culture. We operationalized intraindividual resource scarcity through feelings of financial and caloric dissatisfaction. Accordingly, we hypothesized-and found-that men who feel either poor or hungry prefer heavier women than men who feel rich or full. We discuss these findings in terms of how patterns of cross-cultural norms may be evinced at the individual level through an implicit psychological mechanism.

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