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      Mental State Attribution and Body Configuration in Women

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          Abstract

          Body configuration is a sexually dimorphic trait. In humans, men tend to have high shoulder-to-hip ratios. Women in contrast, often have low waist-to-hip ratios (WHR); i.e., narrow waists and broad hips that approximate an hour-glass configuration. Women with low WHR’s are rated as more attractive, healthier, and more fertile. They also tend to have more attractive voices, lose their virginity sooner, and have more sex partners. WHR has also been linked with general cognitive performance. In the present study we expand upon previous research examining the role of WHR in cognition. We hypothesized that more feminine body types, as indexed by a low WHR, would be associated with cognitive measures of the female “brain type,” such as mental state attribution and empathy because both may depend upon the activational effects of estrogens at puberty. We found that women with low WHRs excel at identifying emotional states of other people and show a cognitive style that favors empathizing over systemizing. We suggest this relationship may be a byproduct of greater gluteofemoral fat stores which are high in the essential fatty acids needed to support brain development and cellular functioning. It is interesting to note that our findings suggest lower WHR females, who are more likely to be targeted for dishonest courtship, may be better at identifying disingenuous claims of commitment.

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          Most cited references 53

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          The "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" Test revised version: a study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism.

          In 1997 in this Journal we published the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" Test, as a measure of adult "mentalising". Whilst that test succeeded in discriminating a group of adults with Asperger syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA) from controls, it suffered from several psychometric problems. In this paper these limitations are rectified by revising the test. The Revised Eyes Test was administered to a group of adults with AS or HFA (N = 15) and again discriminated these from a large number of normal controls (N = 239) drawn from different samples. In both the clinical and control groups the Eyes Test was inversely correlated with the Autism Spectrum Quotient (the AQ), a measure of autistic traits in adults of normal intelligence. The Revised Eyes Test has improved power to detect subtle individual differences in social sensitivity.
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            The extreme male brain theory of autism.

            The key mental domains in which sex differences have traditionally been studied are verbal and spatial abilities. In this article I suggest that two neglected dimensions for understanding human sex differences are 'empathising' and 'systemising'. The male brain is a defined psychometrically as those individuals in whom systemising is significantly better than empathising, and the female brain is defined as the opposite cognitive profile. Using these definitions, autism can be considered as an extreme of the normal male profile. There is increasing psychological evidence for the extreme male brain theory of autism.
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              Adaptive significance of female physical attractiveness: role of waist-to-hip ratio.

              Evidence is presented showing that body fat distribution as measured by waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is correlated with youthfulness, reproductive endocrinologic status, and long-term health risk in women. Three studies show that men judge women with low WHR as attractive. Study 1 documents that minor changes in WHRs of Miss America winners and Playboy playmates have occurred over the past 30-60 years. Study 2 shows that college-age men find female figures with low WHR more attractive, healthier, and of greater reproductive value than figures with a higher WHR. In Study 3, 25- to 85-year-old men were found to prefer female figures with lower WHR and assign them higher ratings of attractiveness and reproductive potential. It is suggested that WHR represents an important bodily feature associated with physical attractiveness as well as with health and reproductive potential. A hypothesis is proposed to explain how WHR influences female attractiveness and its role in mate selection.
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                Author and article information

                Affiliations
                1simpleDepartment of Psychology, University at Albany Albany, NY, USA
                2simpleDepartment of Psychology, Student Development Center, Alfred State College Alfred, NY, USA
                Author notes

                Edited by: Melanie L. Shoup-Knox, University at Albany, USA

                Reviewed by: Melanie L. Shoup-Knox, University at Albany, USA; Will Lassek, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, USA

                *Correspondence: Jennifer A. Bremser, Department of Psychology, Student Development Center, Alfred State College, Alfred, NY 14802, USA. e-mail: bremseja@ 123456alfredstate.edu
                Journal
                Front Evol Neurosci
                Front. Evol. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience
                Frontiers Research Foundation
                1663-070X
                30 January 2012
                2012
                : 4
                3268185
                22319496
                10.3389/fnevo.2012.00001
                Copyright © 2012 Bremser and Gallup Jr.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

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                Figures: 1, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 53, Pages: 6, Words: 10284
                Categories
                Neuroscience
                Original Research

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