Just looking hot isn’t enough to make you attractive to other people. It’s also about how you move. What’s sexy to you (even though you don’t know it) is a pleasing combination of body shape and movement–and our brains are wired to spot if anything is amiss with that relationship.
In an ingenious experiment, Professor Nikolaus Troje at Queen’s University and team used dots to represent people, just like those motion-capture animations that put dots on actors’ bodies in order to capture their movements for movie effects. Troje reduced a person to 15 dots that represented both their body shape and movement. They then separated these two aspects, and recombined them with data from other people. For instance, they could take the body shape of a person with one body type, and mix it with the movements of a another. The team then recorded attractiveness rating for these “hybrid walkers.”
Based on this data, the researchers asked the question: Is the attractiveness of the isolated movement and the attractiveness of the isolated body shape sufficient to predict the attractiveness of the hybrid walker?
The result? Our brains favor consistency. If the body shape and the movement don’t match up, then we spot the fake immediately. It wouldn’t matter if you combined the punchy movements of Fight Club-era Brad Pitt with the modern-day salt-n-pepper statesman George Clooney, our brains would reject this otherwise otherworldly dish.
“We found that attractiveness depends on internal consistency–whether the movement and the shape match each other or not,” Troje told the Queens University Gazette. “Our visual system is a sensitive lie detector that perceives even the slightest inconsistencies and responds negatively to them.”
Why? The researchers suggest that “internal consistency signals health and mate quality.” That is, we’re fine-tuned to notice if something is off, movement-wise, so we can “assess the reproductive qualities of a potential mate.”
My favorite part of this story is that we get some beauty tips from Dr. Troje himself, like a feature in Cosmopolitan, only with actual valid science.
“They can also be used to formulate advice to people who are working on improving their own appearance,” says Troje. “What works for one person may not work for another one. If in doubt, just be yourself.”