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Men are visual beings who like confidence - as long as it's pouting and dressed in a bikini.

Those are the revelations of a new study of 4,000 people who judged photos posted on the website

Men consistently preferred the images of women who were thin, seductive and "confident." Translation: scantily clad and posing suggestively.

Women, in turn, showed weakness for muscular subjects, but often disagreed on how attractive the men were.

"Men tend to agree about twice as much as women do," said Dustin Wood, lead researcher and assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Prof. Wood said the results speak to divides in the way men and women compete for potential mates, and also to the mounting pressure women face to conform to certain aesthetic norms.

"The fact that men agree so much means that there are great rewards for having those characteristics, and possibly great punishment for not having them."

The study was published in last month's issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and co-authored by Claudia Brumbaugh at Queens College in New York.

The participants were gay and straight, and ranged in age from 18 to 70 years old; the people they judged were 18 to 25 years old.

Participants rated photos of 100 men and 100 women on a 10-point scale, from not at all to very attractive. Before the participants cast their judgment, the research team rated each photo on how seductive, confident, thin, sensitive, stylish, curvaceous (for women), muscular (for men), traditional, masculine, feminine, classy, well-groomed and upbeat the subject looked.

"Some of the guys are really looking hard at the camera," Prof. Wood said. "Other guys have their shirts off. Other guys are wearing sweaters and they look like the nice guy you might know at church."

Prof. Wood said his findings echo those in the field of evolutionary psychology, that men need to invest more time and energy in attracting and then guarding their mates from potential suitors. Women, meanwhile, go not just for looks, but also status markers (wealth and authority), commitment and sensitivity - "characteristics that indicate that the man is going to invest a lot of resources and time and not abandon them."

In theory, women are left with better pickings because they're not all competing for the same beefcake.

So who wins in this sexual divide?

Lesbians, Prof. Wood said.

According to his findings, they're the least superficial.