The nation's psychologists descended on San Francisco to discuss momentous questions such as if men could choose between two actresses, the needle-thin Uma Thurman or plumper Janeane Garofalo, whom would most pick?
Garofalo, who starred with Thurman in the recent movie "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," would probably hold the winning edge, at least among adult males, judging by preliminary research reported at sessions of the American Psychological Society.The researcher, psychology Professor John H. Krantz of Hanover College in Indiana, didn't actually ask men to pick favorite actresses. Instead, he set up a World Wide Web page with outlines and silhouettes of different female figures, viewed from the front and side. Then he asked Web users to rate their favorites; more than 500 users - male and female - responded.
"Both males and females tend to prefer female figures of a moderate weight and not an ultrathin figure," concludes a research paper by Krantz and his colleagues, Jody Scher and Jody Ballard. In addition, respondents showed "a tendency to prefer figures that are wider at the hips than at the bust. . . . There are distinctly less favorable ratings for figures that are wider at the bust than at the hips at optimal weights."
The finding contradicts the popular myth that men lust for skinny-as-a-rail women akin to magazine models, said Krantz, 36. But the finding reinforces his own predilections: "Personally, I don't find models interesting," he said with a smile. "They're sticks."
In other developments, psychologists reported:
- Sex and peer groups affect how people open doors. For example, a man walking alone is likely to open a door by pulling it toward himself. But when he's walking with other men, he's likelier to push it open.
That odd - and so far unexplained - finding is one of the many observations by Mandee L. Robinson and Marilyn A. Borges of San Diego State University. They sat outside local shopping centers and recorded more than 350 adults as they walked through doors that swung both ways.
They also noted that women in groups are "significantly" more likely to hold open a door for each other than are groups of men. Furthermore, men are far likelier to open the door for a woman than vice versa.
- Whites perceive a male character in a movie screenplay as "generally more violent, aggressive, sexy and sensual" if the character is identified as black.
Psychology Professor Renoir McDonaugh of Kenyon College near Mount Vernon, Ohio, wrote a mock screenplay and showed excerpts to whites. In some cases the screenplay identified a character as black, in others it gave no hint of his race. However, whites were no likelier than blacks to assume that the black character was "biologically" sexier, McDonaugh said. That's a hopeful sign that myths about racial biological differences "may be fading," she said.