Physical Attractiveness

Additional Information for Chapter 9, Pages 124 and 128

The reference refers to the project that Darren George, Lance Mikus, and Robert Kursnick conducted at UCLA in 1992/93.

Subjects were asked to rate the attractiveness of the pictures (out of a year book from a different university) of 8 different opposite-sexed individuals, four of whom were selected by the authors to be below average in attractiveness and four of them were selected to be above average in attractiveness.

In pages of the questionnaire that followed, each of the eight pictures was shown again with a description of their personality.  Whether attractive or unattractive, descriptives were randomly assigned to be either.  Each was assigned a description that was:

  • Warm and altruistic: an example of partial wording of the description: “. . . Her friends describe her as sociable, sincere, helpful, and usually thinking more about the needs of others than herself.”
  • Selfish and deceitful:  an example of partial wording of the description: “. . . Her friends describe her as sociable but inclined to be rude, extremely selfish, and more concerned with her own needs than the needs of others.”

Thus whether the person was attractive or unattractive there was equal probability of either the warm-and-altruistic description or the selfish-and-deceitful description.

Subjects were then asked the likelihood that they would

  • Go on a single date with such a person
  • Go steady with such a person
  • Marry such a person

The focus of the research was to investigate gender differences concerning the likelihood of single date, going steady, or marrying  persons of varying levels of attractiveness and the two different types of personality described.

We hypothesized that women would be more influenced by personal qualities and men would be more influenced by physical attractiveness.

283 UCLA students participated in the study; 53% were women (rating men) and 47% were men (rating women).

Partial results:  Many types of data analysis were conducted; we report here only comparisons of correlations between men and women:

Selfish-Altruistic:

Date Go steady Marry
Women -0.40 -0.48 -0.48
Men -0.17 -0.29 -0.35

The negative numbers in each cell of the table means that if the potential partner is selfish, the person who rates them is less likely to date, go steady, or marry.  For men and women for each of the three (date, steady, marry) a selfish attitude diminishes the likely of doing any of the three.  The larger the number, the greater the effect.  This means women are unlikely to date a selfish man (-.40) but they are even less likely to go steady or marry a selfish man (-.48).  It also shows that men are less affected by the negative personality of a prospective date then are women.  For a single date a correlation of -.17 is almost trivial, suggesting that if the babe is cute, who cares what she’s like.  The negative influence of a selfish person increases as the level of commitment increases.  Men are less likely to go steady with a selfish woman (-.29), and even less likely to marry someone who is selfish (‑.35).  However for all three conditions the effect is significantly stronger for the women than it is for the men (date, -.40 vs. -.17; go steady, -.48 vs. -.29; marry, ‑.48 vs. -.35).

In short, women are more concerned with personal qualities of a potential partner than are men.

Attractive-Unattractive:

Date Go steady Marry
Women 0.63 0.58 0.53
Men 0.78 0.74 0.66

The positive numbers in each cell of the table means that if the potential partner is attractive, the person who rates them is more likely to date, go steady, or marry.  For men and women for each of the three conditions (date, steady, marry) an attractive potential partner increases the likelihood of wanting the relationship: the larger the number, the greater the effect.  The chart suggests three different things:

  • Whether the rater is a man or a woman, an attractive potential partner greatly enhances the desire to date, go steady, or marry.
  • For both men and women, as the level of commitment increases the importance of physical attractiveness diminishes (notice that women go from .63 to .58, to .53; men go from .78 to .74 to .66).
  • At all three levels men are significantly more drawn by attractiveness than are women (for dating, .78 vs. .63; for going steady, .74 vs. .58; to marry, .66 vs. .53).

Feel free to contact us if you wish additional material about this study.

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