August 2014
Volume 14, Issue 10
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2014
A Perceptual Space for Describing Human Bodies
Author Affiliations
  • Matthew Q. Hill
    The University of Texas at Dallas
  • Carina A. Hahn
    The University of Texas at Dallas
  • Alice J. O'Toole
    The University of Texas at Dallas
Journal of Vision August 2014, Vol.14, 1284. doi:
  • Views
  • Share
  • Tools
    • Alerts
      This feature is available to authenticated users only.
      Sign In or Create an Account ×
    • Get Citation

      Matthew Q. Hill, Carina A. Hahn, Alice J. O'Toole; A Perceptual Space for Describing Human Bodies. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):1284. doi:

      Download citation file:

      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

  • Supplements

Humans regularly describe bodies using global and local feature terms (e.g., pear-shaped, fit, broad shoulders). Remarkably little is known about how these features map onto complex body shapes and how bodies compare perceptually to one another. Here, we "reverse engineered" a human body space from participants' ratings of male and female bodies. Participants (n = 31) rated 60 male and 165 female bodies using 27 common descriptor terms that captured variations in global shape (e.g., rectangular, curvy), local features (e.g., short torso, long legs), physical health (e.g., fit, muscular), and gender-related attributes (e.g., masculine). The rating choices for each descriptor were: "1: applies perfectly; 2: applies somewhat; 3: does not apply". Ratings were compiled across participants and submitted to a correspondence analysis—a multivariate technique that placed the bodies and feature descriptor terms in a common space. We generated separate multidimensional spaces for female and male bodies. For both spaces, axis 1 captured weight variation, axis 2 captured height variation, and axis 3 described sex-specific global shape variations. The sex-specific shape variations in the female body space contrasted "curvy" and "pear-shaped" with "skinny" and "lean"; for males, it contrasted "muscular" and "built" with "skinny" and "small." An additional common axis (4th for males, 5th for females) captured variation in the ratio of torso and leg length, contrasting bodies having short torsos and long legs with bodies having long torsos and short legs. Combined, the described axes explained 62% of the variance for the male space and 59% for the female space. These spaces offer a first look at the perceptual structure of human body variability and give insight into how individual bodies align with the labels used to describe them. The results suggest that relatively stable perceptual representations of bodies can be reverse engineered from linguistic labels.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014


This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

Sign in or purchase a subscription to access this content. ×

You must be signed into an individual account to use this feature.