The fashion stereotype of leggy models strutting on the catwalk is hardly original, but it works because designers are exploiting our Darwinian instincts for mating, new research suggests.
University of Wroclaw investigators in Poland asked 218 men and women to rate the attractiveness of seven male and seven female images, New Scientist magazine reports.
The pictures were altered to feature people who were the same height but had leg lengths that varied 5, 10 and 15percent from the Polish national norm.
Regardless of their own build, the volunteers preferred legs that were 5percent longer than average.
Legs of normal length ranked equally with legs that were 10percent longer.
Researcher Boguslaw Pawlowski suggests the preferences point to a genetic drive to find the fittest possible mating partner.
"Long legs signal health," he said.
In both sexes, short legs are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Among short-legged men, the data point to higher triglyceride levels, associated with heart disease and strokes.
Other studies in perception found male preferences for women with wide hips and narrow waists, associated with fertility fitness. - Sapa-AFP