Women find fast cyclists attractive
Both women and men find the faces of male cyclists who clock up good times more attractive than those of cyclists who always end up at the back of the squad. The genes of men who make good cyclists also make them good looking, concludes biologist Erik Postma from a study in which he got 800 people to judge the faces of competitors in the 2012 Tour de France.
Postma, of Dutch origin but working at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, collected photos of 80 cyclists who had completed the Tour in 2012. He conducted an online survey in which 800 surfers were asked to score the faces on attractiveness.
"Based on hundreds of attractiveness ratings I found it indeed is the handsome guys who finish first", Postma related in an interview. [telegraph.co.uk 04 Feb 2014]
The relationship between attractiveness and performance is shown in the figure below.
Postma suggests that the relationship can be explained through evolutionary theory. Way back in the Stone Age people with good stamina were less likely to end up as dinner for a sabre-toothed tiger, and they were also better hunters.
Women were more likely to have strong sons and daughters if they chose a mate with good genes. Therefore during the course of evolution they developed a preference for men with good endurance capacity. So a handsome face and good stamina go together, Postma reasons.
The relationship was stronger in women who did not use the contraceptive pill than in men, according to the figure on the right.
By the way, the participants in the study did not find the attractive cyclists more 'masculine' or 'nicer'.
"I was able to simultaneously investigate the effects of several rider- and rater-specific variables on attractiveness scores and show a relationship between facial attractiveness and performance", Postma writes in the last paragraph of his article. "Although the mechanism mediating this relationship remains to be elucidated, this provides a fascinating new insight into the nature of human endurance performance."
Biol Lett. 2014 Feb 5;10(2):20130966.
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