Lumbar curvature: a previously undiscovered standard of attractiveness
This paper reports independent studies supporting the proposal that human standards of attractiveness reflect the output of psychological adaptations to detect fitness-relevant traits. We tested novel a priori hypotheses based on an adaptive problem uniquely faced by ancestral hominin females: a forward-shifted center of mass during pregnancy. The hominin female spine possesses evolved morphology to deal with this adaptive challenge: wedging in the third-to-last lumbar vertebra. Among ancestral women, vertebral wedging would have minimized the net fitness threats posed by hypolordosis and hyperlordosis, thereby creating selective pressures on men to prefer such women as mates. On this basis, we hypothesized that men possess evolved mate preferences for women with this theoretically optimal angle of lumbar curvature. In Study 1, as hypothesized, men's attraction toward women increased as women's lumbar curvature approached this angle. However, vertebral wedging and buttock mass can both influence lumbar curvature. Study 2 thus employed a forced-choice paradigm in which men selected the most attractive woman among models exhibiting the same lumbar curvature, but for different morphological reasons. Men again tended to prefer women exhibiting cues to a degree of vertebral wedging closer to optimum. This included preferring women whose lumbar curvature specifically reflected vertebral wedging rather than buttock mass. These findings reveal novel, theoretically anchored, and previously undiscovered standards of attractiveness.