Nottingham University psychologist Andrew Dunn photographed five men individually and then made copies of each photo tweaked with different designs. On some of the shirts, Dunn drew a "T" of various sizes, on others he inverted the "T," and he left a final group blank. As an extra metric, Dunn varied the width of the "T" on the shirts — sometimes the horizontal bar was longer than the vertical bar, sometimes it was not.
Dunn then blocked out each man's face in every picture, randomly selected a group of women and asked them to rate the attractiveness,
The women consistently thought the men in the shirts with the upright "T" were both healthier and more attractive than the others, even when they were unknowingly comparing the same man in two different shirts.
Recent research had already suggested that women prefer men with a "V-shaped" torso (think: big chest and shoulders with a small waist), and it is possible that a 'T" on the front of a shirt can simulate this effect — if the top horizontal bar is long enough.
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The women, however, did not rate any men more intelligent than others, unlike other research that correlates good-looks with perceived higher intelligence.
"The wider-barred 'T' seems to emphasize the upper chest when upright, which accentuates men's 'optimum' shape," Dunn said in an article in the Daily Mail . "The opposite happens when inverted."
Dunn has produced other studies examining how illusions and information from our environment affect our thinking and decision-making. For example, we are more likely to find someone's voice more pleasing if we can't see the face of the person speaking.
Ultimately, the Dunn's research shows that our subconscious impulses, often responsible for decision-making, can be easily fooled.
"A lot of our decision processes are influenced outside of our awareness," Dunn told Business Insider "Here we are rating the health and attractiveness of these people, and the only thing that is different is the shape of a 'T' on a shirt."