Your shapely derriere alone isn't what makes you attractive, or so suggests a new study. "Most previous work on attractiveness focused on the effect of isolated features," explains Canada's Queen's University professor Nikolaus Troje. As he and two German researchers explain in a study published in Evolution & Human Behavior, "evolutionary psychology states that sexual attractiveness has evolved to assess the reproductive qualities of a potential mate"—and as such, past studies have looked at individual traits that have ties to things like fertility. In their study, the researchers set out with the hypothesis that attractiveness doesn't just stem from those parts but from "the consistency of the whole appearance." A press release explains the set-up: Participants viewed "schematic point-light displays that depict a person using 15 moving dots."
The dots gave participants a sense of both the person's body shape and their movements; that allowed the researchers to grade both the most attractive shapes and movement styles. They then made super-attractive hybrids by pairing the most attractive in both buckets. But participants found the hybrid walkers to be less attractive than the two individual walkers who made up the hybrid, Troje explains in a blog post. "We found that attractiveness depends on internal consistency—whether the movement and the shape match each other or not." If they don't, our visual system will respond negatively. One practical application of the results: "to formulate advice to people who are working on improving their own appearance," says Troje, who observes that what makes someone else good-looking may not work for you. (Here's what attractiveness has to do with love at first sight.)