The beauty bias: Can people love the one they are compatible with?

Feb 11, 2008

Physical attractiveness is important in choosing whom to date. Good looking people are not only popular targets for romantic pursuits, they themselves also tend to flock together with more attractive others. Does this mean then that more attractive versus less attractive people wear a different pair of lens when evaluating others’ attractiveness?

Columbia University marketing professor, Leonard Lee, and colleagues, George Loewenstein (Carnegie Mellon University), Dan Ariely (MIT) and James Hong and Jim Young (HOTorNOT.com), decided to test this theory in the realm of an online dating site. The site HOTorNOT.com allows members to rate others on their level of physical attractiveness.

Lee and colleagues analyzed two data sets from HOTorNOT.com— one containing members’ dating requests, and the other containing the attractiveness ratings of other members. Both data sets also included ratings of members’ own attractiveness as rated by other members.

The results, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, are revealing. Consistent with previous research, people with similar levels of physical attractiveness indeed tend to date each other, with more attractive people being more particular about the physical attractiveness of their potential dates.

Furthermore, people prefer to date others who are moderately more attractive than them.

Compared to females, males are more influenced by how physically attractive their potential dates are, but less affected by how attractive they themselves are, when deciding whom to date. Also, regardless of how attractive people themselves are, they seem to judge others’ attractiveness in similar ways, supporting the notion that we have largely universal, culturally independent standards of beauty (e.g. symmetric faces).

These results indicate that people’s own attractiveness does not affect their judgment of others’ attractiveness. People of different physical attractiveness levels might instead vary the importance they place on different desirable qualities in their dates. Lee and colleagues conducted a follow-up speed-dating study in which more attractive people placed more weight on physical attractiveness in selecting their dates, while less attractive people placed more weight on other qualities (e.g. sense of humor). Much like the famous line from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, people find a way to love the ones they can be with.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Explore further: Computer game could help visually-impaired children live independently

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What is the value of G?

Oct 28, 2014

NIST has taken part in a new push to address a persistent and growing problem in physics: the value of G. The Newtonian constant of gravitation, used to calculate the attractive force of gravity between objects, is more than ...

The economics of age gaps and marriage

Oct 30, 2014

Men and women who are married to spouses of similar ages are smarter, more successful and more attractive compared to couples with larger age gaps, according to a paper from CU Denver Economics Assistant Professor Hani Mansour ...

Fighting the global water scarcity issue

Oct 30, 2014

According to the World Water Management Institute, over one-third of the human population is affected by water scarcity. If nothing is done to prevent it, an estimated 1.8 billion people will be living in ...

Turning the tide for great white sharks

Oct 29, 2014

Spending up to 13 hours a day traversing shark-infested waters may be far from your notion of an ideal career. Not so for UConn alum Chris Perkins '12 (CLAS), co-founder and director of research for nonprofit ...

Nestling birds struggle in noisy environments

Oct 29, 2014

Unable to fly, nestling birds depend on their parents for both food and protection: vocal communication between parents and offspring helps young birds to determine when they should beg for food and when they should crouch ...

Keeping hydrogen from cracking metals

Oct 28, 2014

Metal alloys such as steel and zirconium that are used in pipes for nuclear reactors and oil fields naturally acquire a protective oxide or sulfide layer. But hydrogen penetration can lead to their breakdown ...

Recommended for you

Halloween, fear and the brain

23 hours ago

Children and adults alike are digging out those spooky costumes ready for a celebration. We've reached that time of year again: Halloween. October 31 is dedicated to remembering the dead.

Study examines psychology of workaholism

Oct 31, 2014

Even in a culture that lionizes hard work, workaholism tends to produce negative impacts for employers and employees, according to a new study from a University of Georgia researcher.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

legendmoth
not rated yet Feb 13, 2008
Did anyone see the contradiction in this article?
"with more attractive people being more particular about the physical attractiveness of their potential dates." and "These results indicate that people's own attractiveness does not affect their judgment of others' attractiveness."

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.