Date of Award

Summer 7-2022

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Donald Sacco

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Lucas Keefer

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Alen Hajnal

Committee Member 3 School



This study aimed to extend work considering how bodily cues appear diagnostic of parental ability. I examined body adiposity and sexually dimorphic features for women (i.e., breast size) and men (i.e., muscularity). I further considered how salience of resource scarcity might heighten perceptions of a potential mate as an effective parent when possessing features that connote underlying resource availability (e.g., body fat). Participants were primed with resource scarcity or a control condition before assessing parental affordances of female and male targets. Targets were orthogonally manipulated to possess high and low levels of adiposity. Female targets were manipulated for breast size and male targets for muscularity. I posited that scarcity-primed participants would perceive high-fat targets as affording more parental opportunities. Similarly, I predicted large-breast female targets to garner more favor given research indicating larger breasts association with nursing ability. Conversely, I predicted scarcity-primed participants would view high-muscularity male targets as more threatening given past work finding muscular men to be perceived as more exploitative and aggressive. Although the prime in the current study failed, results replicated previous findings of high adiposity in female targets being viewed more favorably. A similar effect emerged for small-breast targets. Low-fat male targets appeared to afford more threats and opportunities, and high-muscularity targets were perceived as more threatening. Possible dual signal values of these specific features are explored, and results are discussed from an evolutionary framework.



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