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High heels as supernormal stimuli: How wearing high heels affects judgements of female attractiveness

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... This has already been investigated in exaggerations of the human form (Barrett, 2010), in particular, Doyle and Pazhoohi (2012) found that the most desired augmented breast size and shape was actually not a natural but an exaggerated shape. Others have examined facial features (Costa & Corazzo, 2006), cosmetics (Etcoff, Stock, Haley, Vickery, & House, 2011), and the effect of high heel shoes (Morris, White, Morrison, & Fisher, 2013). To investigate these supernormal stimuli, the markers that are exaggerated to create hypersexualized and markedly different bodies need to be delineated. ...
... In addition, even when the women were not wearing shoes, they were drawn as walking on the balls of their feet, creating the look of high heels without wearing them. Interestingly, researchers have already argued that women in high heels could be regarded as supernormal stimuli (Morris et al., 2013). The irony of this is that these are imaginary women, and can be drawn with accentuated hip and buttock curvature without 'wearing heels'. ...
... Applying these findings onto comic book faces would be particularly interesting. In addition, although much of this work has been done on female supernormal stimuli (Costa & Corazzo, 2006;Doyle & Pazhoohi, 2012;Etcoff et al., 2011;Morris et al., 2013), little work has been done on the creation of male supernormal stimuli. What neurological response would be elicited by these dramatically exaggerated male comic book bodies (like Platek & Singh, 2010)? ...
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We examined the visualization of male and female superheroes, paying attention to physical dimensions and costuming that accentuated hyper-masculine or hyperfeminine features such as shoulder-to-waist ratio, jawlines, upper body muscularity, waist-to-hip ratio, and breast morphology. Body mass index (BMI) data were collected for 3,752 Marvel comic characters. Males were on average "obese" whereas females averaged at the low end of normal weight. The male higher body mass was caused by extreme upper body muscularity, with male shoulder-to-waist ratios far above human limits. This is in stark contrast to low weight female superhero bodies with far lower waist-to-hip ratios than average humans. The endocrine markers that are exaggerated in these depictions create supernormal sexual stimuli for each sex.
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For 250 years medical scientists have propagandized about the health hazards of high-heeled shoes, which originated four centuries ago. Physicians, however, largely unaware of their own profession's tradition, keep reinventing the diagnostic wheel. This professional amnesia has held back the momentum of the process of educating the public. Consequently, despite these warnings, millions of women continue to wear high-heeled shoes. This article describes the history of the medical profession's recognition of this worldwide health problem and the current understanding of the deleterious and often irreversible biomechanical effects of high-heeled shoewear. The article emphasizes that the reemergence of high heels and of medical interest in them in the third quarter of the 19th century, following their disappearance in the wake of the French Revolution, was associated with increasing pressure by employers to wear such shoes for long hours at work. Although medical scientists have recognized this specifically occupational phenomenon for more than a century, full-scale epidemiological studies may be necessary to bring about substantial social-behavioral change.
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EDITORIAL COMMENT This new section of the journal has been added to provide readers with a broader contact with specific information. In many cases, information which is of interest to the reader but does not conform to the strict peer review guidelines is available. We welcome submissions from our readers with opinions, ideas, or essays that are of interest to the readers of Foot & Ankle International. Lowell D. Lutter, M.D. Editor-in-Chief Foot & Ankle International
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Point-light displays of human gait provide information sufficient to recognize the gender of a walker and are taken as evidence of the exquisite tuning of the visual system to biological motion. The authors revisit this topic with the goals of quantifying human efficiency at gender recognition. To achieve this, the authors first derive an ideal observer for gender recognition on the basis of center of moment (J. E. Cutting, D. R. Proffitt, & L. T. Kozlowski, 1978) and, with the use of anthropometric data from various populations, show optimal recognition of approximately 79% correct. Next, they perform a meta-analysis of 21 experiments examining gender recognition, obtaining accuracies of 66% correct for a side view and 71% for other views. Finally, results of the meta-analysis and the ideal observer are combined to obtain estimates of human efficiency at gender recognition of 26% for the side view and 47% for other views.
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