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Articles categorized as ‘Macquarie University Psychology School’

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Macquarie Psychology finds people prefer thin over healthy

A new study from Macquarie University being published in PLOS ONE has found that both genders consider an unhealthily low body fat content for women as attractive; however for men, a healthy body type with a normal body fat content is considered more attractive.

The study used new techniques to measure different body shapes associated with different levels of fat and muscle, and then used computer graphics to apply these differences to photographs of real bodies. Participants then manipulated the apparent fat and muscle mass of these body photographs to indicate the shape that they thought looked the healthiest or the most attractive.

Macquarie Psychology finds people prefer thin over healthy

Composite bodies showing the average fat and muscle mass chosen as the most attractive for women and men (Image credit: Dr Ian Stephen)

“In this study we found that both male and female participants chose significantly less fat mass to optimise the attractiveness of women’s bodies than to optimise the healthy appearance of women’s bodies,” explained lead author, Mary-Ellen Brierley from the Macquarie Department of Psychology.

“Whereas for men’s bodies, participants opted for a similar amount of muscle and fat mass to optimise attractiveness and healthy appearance,” she added.

The healthy body fat range for young Caucasian women is 21-33 per cent according to previous health studies; however, research-group leader Dr Ian Stephen, also from the Department of Psychology, said that most participants selected a lower body fat range for both attractive and healthy female bodies.

“Our participants optimised a healthy-looking body composition for women at around 19 per cent fat, and a most attractive-looking body type of just 16 per cent fat. This suggests that while previous studies have found that smaller female body size generally corresponds to a greater perceived attractiveness, this observation is actually due to people’s preference for lower fat mass, rather than lower muscle mass or smaller body size in general.”

The manipulated female and male bodies in the study were of all of Caucasian appearance between the ages of 18 to 30, to minimise effects of age and ethnicity on participants’ judgements. Notably, the participants could have chosen even thinner bodies if they had wanted, but instead chose bodies just below the healthy range.

“Perceptions of face and body attractiveness are thought to reflect the health and fertility of the person, allowing us to identify healthy and fertile mates,” said Dr Stephen. “While this seems to be the case for men’s bodies, our study suggests that something else is also influencing the perceived attractiveness of women’s bodies. It could be that cultural ideas of the ‘thin ideal’ are driving down people’s perceptions of attractive body fat levels in women.”

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Learn more about psychological sciences degrees at Macquarie University. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Psychology Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith at adam@oztrekk.com.

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Macquarie Psychology professor awarded Australian Laureate Fellowship

Distinguished Professor Ron Rapee, Director of the Centre for Emotional Health and a member of the Psychology Department at Macquarie University has been awarded an Australian Laureate Fellowship.

Australian psychology programs in Australia

Study psychology at Macquarie

The Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme, administered by the Australian Research Council (ARC), gives outstanding research leaders the opportunity to tackle some of the most urgent and complex research issues facing Australia and the world.

With just over $3 million in funding from this ARC Laureate fellowship, Professor Rapee’s project will aim to understand factors that increase risk and provide protection from the development of emotional distress during the adolescent years.

Adolescence is a critical stage in the development of emotional functioning, and behaviours developed at this time can influence the entire life course. Professor Rapee’s research study plans to follow a large group of teenagers over many years and will focus on risk and protective factors that are open to possible modification.

The intended outcomes seek to support the development of prevention and promotion programs and public health initiatives to maximise positive emotional development in young people. It is hoped that these will lead to increased productivity and better quality of life.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Sakkie Pretorius said, “Professor Rapee’s research is an excellent example of Macquarie University researchers conducting world-leading research with world-changing impact. The award of an Australian Laureate Fellowship is acknowledgement of the outstanding research undertaken by Ron and his team and recognition of his strong leadership in this important area of research.”

“One in five Australians suffer from mental disorders and most of these begin during the adolescent years. Understanding more about what makes some adolescents thrive while others experience difficulties will help to improve the mental health of all Australians,” said Professor Rapee.

The Centre for Emotional Health was established in 2006 and has grown to one of the world’s leading research centres studying the development and management of emotional difficulties.

Professor Rapee is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and in 2012 was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his contributions to clinical psychology.

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Find out more about studying psychological sciences at Macquarie University. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Psychology Schools Admissions Officer Rachel Brady at 1-866-698-7355 or email Rachel at rachel@oztrekk.com.