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PSY 3102: LECTURE 2

P H Y S I C A L AT T R A C T I O N
Mo nda y, Jan uary 16 , 2 01 7

RECAP
Q: What key components make up a close relationship?
o Strong, frequent, diverse interdependence that lasts over a considerable period of time
Q: What theory predicts that fear or uncertainty drive humans to seek out relationships with others?
o Need for affiliation
Q: What theory proposes that humans seek out relationships to share positive/happy experiences?
o Need for intimacy
Q: What theory proposes that humans seek out relationships with others to share positive experiences as well
as during times of fear/uncertainty?
o Need for belongingness
Q: What are the steps in scientific research?
o Observable behaviour/phenomenon
o Hypothesis and generate a testable prediction
o Evaluate the prediction
o Revise/communicate results

PHYSICAL AT TRACTION
This is how most romantic relationships start

WHAT DOES EVOLUTIONARY PSYCH SAY ABOUT AT TRACTIVENESS?


Humans search out features that have the most adaptive value
o i.e., features that increase Inclusive Fitness = desire to pass genes on to next generation

Evo lut io n ary p rin cip les g uid ing pe rce p t io ns o f


at t r act ive ne s s
Colour red makes women sexier
Women prefer to wear sexy clothing during fertile periods
Women prefer masculine men when ovulating
o Women on the pill prefer more effeminate men
Feminine women with high-pitched voices rated as more attractive
o Opposite for men
Women prefer scent of symmetrical men when ovulating:
experiment involving sniffing mens t-shirts, people that have
symmetrical faces/bodies seem to produce pheromones that are
more preferred by the opposite sex

Experimental examples
Experiment with strippers: effects of ovulatory cycle on tip earnings
by lap dancers
o Women who are on the pill (dotted line) compared to normally cycling non-pill users (solid line)
o Being off the pill produces more dollars earned per shift: affected by pheromones (exuding different
quality/quantity of chemicals possibly pheromones)
Oral contraceptive use in women changes preferences for male facial masculinity
o Women on the pill prefer a different type of man compared to women not on the pill
o Pill users prefer men with effeminate features
o Non-pill users prefer more masculine men
How satisfied are women with their partners? (See graphs
below)
o On pill (grey) and not on pill (white)
o Women on the pill
Sexual satisfaction is lower
General satisfaction with relationship was
higher
Partner attractiveness (opinion) was lower
o Human nature: look for partner genetically
different from you
o Being on the pill tends to promote the opposite
controls the cycle and do not seek a partner who is
genetically very different from them (relatives are more likely to give support; less likely to leave you)
o Less masculine looking men: looked like better providers and fathers
o Relationships lasted 2 years longer on average (for pill users)

THE DATING GAME


Women and men have a different parental investment and play the game according to different rules (Trivers,
1972)
Men place a higher emphasis on physical features (signs of fertility and youth)
o smooth skin, good muscle tone, lustrous hair, and full lips
Women place a higher emphasis on mens ability to provide resources, such as food, shelter, territory, and
protection
o high cheekbones, high-status clothing and good grooming habits

Buss, 1989
Multi-cultural study: from Belgium to Zambia (considered universal)
found that men prefer younger mates (2.66 years younger, on average)
men rated good looks as important
women rated earning potential as important

So me crit iq ue s o f p ap e r- pe nci l st ud ie s
Argument is that participants respond with what they think a good romantic partner ought to have

Eastwick and Finkel (2008)


Used the speed-dating and longitudinal study
approach (rather than paper-pencil approach)
Little correspondence between preferences
and actual partners!
o even if participant prefers younger partner,
in reality their partner is older
Womens choices were more complex
Graph: comparing physical attractiveness and
earning prospects
o in reality, women preferred physical
attractiveness more, and men had more preference for earning prospects

E arly st ud ies o n at t ra ct io n
Physical attractiveness is important: Walster et al., 1966
700 students participated in a dating game on a university campus
Subjects rated by experimenters on attractiveness; subjects rated their randomly assigned partners
Physical attractiveness of partner was the only predictor of how comfortable subjects felt on their date and
whether they would date again (participants looked at physical attractiveness as the primary factor for the
initiation of dating)

Preference for body types?: Ford & Beach, 1951


Of 100 cultures, 5 preferred a slim body, 5 preferred a medium body, 18 preferred a plump body
Majority (72) did not have a preference (facial attractiveness may be more important)
Cultural differences for preferred body parts
o North America: breasts, butts (aka T&A), and legs
o Japan: exposed necks
o Ancient China: small feet

DOES BODY TYPE REALLY MAT TER?


Body attractiveness lies not in absolute body
type/size
Its in the relative body features

What Makes Women Attractive?


Women with 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio (Singh, 1993)

What Makes Men Attractive?


Men with 0.9 waist-to-hip ratio, with a muscular upper body (Singh, 1995)
o Women tend to prefer broad shoulders

Is wais t - to - hip r at io a unive rs ally de s irab le t ra it ?


Westman & Marlowe, 1999: found no preference for this waist-to-hip ratio in a certain culture
o It is not universal, but it does apply to many cultures

FACIAL AT TRACTIVENESS
Cunningham et al, 1995 tested men and women from many Latin, Asian and white cultures
Most subjects favoured: larger eyes, small noses, and a small chin
Womens features of attractiveness (favoured by men):
o narrow cheeks, high eyebrows, and smiles
Mens features of attractiveness (favoured by women):
o large eyes, prominent cheekbones, and chin
o high-status clothing and good grooming habits
Even if you have an attractive face, your body type may decrease your attractiveness in the opinion of
others (and vice versa)

Re ce nt fi nd ing s
Evolutionary Psychologists argue that facial symmetry, averageness, and sexual dimorphism are valued
as attractive features between both genders (e.g., Rhodes, 2006)
o Sexual dimorphism: as soon as you look at a face, you are able to tell whether it is male/female
Argue that attractive features signal good health
o Studies try to figure out whether attractiveness does correlate with health or not

Face a ve rag e ne ss and s ymme t ry


Both signal overall phenotypic quality
o Having a face thats closer to an average face seem to be considered as more attractive
They are not the same, but both impact physical attractiveness
o e.g., slight deviations from symmetry indicate poor health due to genetics or environmental factors
Being a good detector of important qualities is most important in mate choice
Could indicate poor environmental factors, or poor in mothers womb

Do es be a ut y p red ict he a lt h?
Kalick et al (1998) tested Americans perception of health and beauty of late adolescents
Found that participants were blinded by attractive faces when making health judgments
i.e., there was no correlation between attractiveness and health
For some late adolescents, beauty masked their poor health

Do es lo w at t r act ive ne s s p re d ict po o r he alt h?


Zebrowitz & Rhodes, 2004
Does low level of attractiveness predict poor health? Yes
o Instead of focusing on attractiveness of individual, maybe focus when there is lower level of
attractiveness
Evidence indicates that this is true
o i.e., low levels of attractiveness were associated with poorer health and
lower intelligence
Being able to detect bad genes is more adaptive than detecting the best genes

Pro t o t yp e s
Prototypes: mathematically averaged faces
o Participants preferred prototypes (Langlois et al, 1994)
o faces included symmetry as well (since faces were averaged)
o we have an idea of prototypes (an average face) in our brains

G ay p ref e re nce s
Bailey et al (1997)
Gay men preferred men who look and act masculine, and were straight acting
Lesbian women preferred partners who were female looking (i.e., did not have masculine features, such as
short hair, muscular build and high WHR)

Faci al symme t ry
Recreating faces using a single photograph

Co g nit ive me ch anis ms


Hypothesis: Symmetry and prototypes are easier to process, i.e., less of a cognitive load
Prototypes feel more familiar, which leads to more liking
All of these findings are still being researched further not 100% confirmed

PERSONALITY
Attractiveness paints a rosy glow around potential mates
Leads to perception that attractive people have better personality
o i.e., we judge books by their covers
Study: What is beautiful is good (Dion et al, 1972)
o Subjects evaluated personalities and quality of life of men and women in photos
o If an individual is attractive, we tend to associate other positive aspects with that individual
o People rated as more attractive were associated with higher IQ, higher paying job

AT TRACTIVENESS OF CHILDREN
Evidence suggests that adults give more attractive children
preferential treatment as well
Dion (1972)
o children made to look more or less attractive; subjects
administered penalties for incorrect responses (removing pennies)
o men: did not discriminate based on looks
o women: penalized unattractive children more severely
they penalized unattractive males and attractive females more

C anad i an s t ud y
Harrell (news report)
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/03/health/ugly-children-may-get-parental-short-shrift.html?_r=0
found that mothers and fathers were less likely to buckle less attractive children

IS PREFERENCE FOR AT TRACTIVE FACES INNATE?


Ramsey et al (2004) found that infants as young as 6 months prefer attractive faces
Some tentative evidence that 15 minute-old infants show no preference for attractive faces
Children as young as 3 prefer attractive children
claim that less attractive kids are mean

IS AT TRACTIVENESS STEREOTYPE UNIVERSAL?


Mixed results
Different cultures have slight deviations as to what aspects make a person attractive
e.g., Western subjects perceive attractive people as stronger, more assertive, and dominant; Korean subjects
perceive them as more honest and show more concern for others
Do we g ive p re fe re nt i al t re at me nt to at t ra ct ive p eo p le o r les s p re f e re nt ial
t re at me nt t o les s at t ract ive pe o p le ?
Several studies find that we give less preferential treatment to less attractive people
Unattractive mental patients: get more severe diagnoses and remain hospitalized for longer (Farina et al,
1977)
Attractive defendants are acquitted more often

META- ANALYSIS OF AT TRACTIVENESS


Several meta-studies find that attractive people are perceived as less modest and more vain
Evidence indicated that depending on what questions were asked, reflected different answers by subjects
e.g., asking about health vs. vanity and snobbishness

Wh at shap e s o ur pe rce p t io ns o f at t r act ive ne s s ?


Our judgements are not constant and consistent over time
Factors affecting judgements: context, dispositions such as mood, and our current relationship status
Context effects on attractiveness
o Man surrounded by women is more attractive to women
o Woman surrounded by men is less attractive to men (more attractive if shes surrounded by other
women)
Context effects on attractiveness

CONTRAST EFFECT
Face perception research indicates that adapting to attractive faces leads to negative perception of an
average face (reverse for unattractive adaptation)
o E.g. if you spend a lot of time with models and get used to attractive faces, then the average face
will seem less attractive
Makeup is used to create more contrast in the face e.g. red lips, dark eyes, dark eyebrows
Our visual system is conducting a comparison between the 2 stimuli
Context effect demo
o Adaptation to a stimulus: animated spiral
o Picture of Brad Pitt looks like its being warped

Hayn-Leichsenring et al, 2013


In a face adaptation study, found that average faces were rated in opposite directions to the adapting
stimulus
o i.e., if adapt to unattractive faces, an average face
looks attractive (and vice versa if adapted to
attractive faces)
Similar findings for pieces of art: if adapted to nicer
paintings, an average painting looks less attractive
no transfer from photos to art or vice versa: photos and
painting seen as different stimuli

Figure 2: Higher mean values indicate a lower


attractiveness
o Middle grey bar: baseline (average face)
o Left bar: adapted on unattractive face photographs
so average face looks more attractive
o Right bar: adapted to attractive faces so average
face looks less attractive

Tim ing of co nt ras t eff e ct s


When adaptation occurs or target face is judged after viewing attractive faces, then contrast effects emerge
When target face is embedded among attractive faces, it is perceived as more attractive (facilitatory effect)
o e.g. go to bar, see an unattractive person among group of attractive people unattractive person will
seem more attractive
Implications: get some attractive friends to hang out with you
o Or ask your unattractive friends to enter the room first, then make an entrance so all eyes are on you

PERSONAL DISPOSITIONS
Mood influences our ratings of others attractiveness
in bad mood lower attractiveness ratings
May and Hamilton (1980)
o induced positive, negative, or neutral mood using music and asked women to rate photos of men
o Congruency effect:
positive mood produced more attractive ratings;
negative mood produced more negative ratings

BEING IN A RELATIONSHIP
results in people rating others as less attractive
Evolutionary explanation: mechanism for relationship maintenance to ensure its longevity via reduction of
temptation
Being in a relationship makes the individuals in the relationship seem more attractive

BEING SINGLE
People become less discriminating the longer they are not in a relationship
Desperation shows an effect even on a short time frame
o Mickey Gilleys 1975 song Dont all the girls get prettier at closing time
o Pennebaker et al (1979) confirmed this finding in both genders (in a bar)

CONCLUSIONS ABOUT AT TRACTIVENESS AND AT TRACTION


Importance of attractiveness decreases as we age and as couples continue dating
Matching Hypothesis: people seek out romantic partners of a similar attractiveness level
Berscheid et al (1971)
o used a computer dance technique where instead of being assigned a partner, subjects got to choose a
partner
o Most picked partners that matched their level of attractiveness (assessed by researchers)

Se ek o ut mo s t at t ract i ve , se t t le fo r e q ually at t ract i ve


Some contradictory findings, however, the different design may have lead to different data
Perhaps, matching is a motive for seeking a date
Attractiveness may be used when trying to hold onto a partner

Se lf- p e rce p t io n of at t ract i ve nes s


Majority of people do not think of themselves as unattractive
4% of men and 7% of women

Peoples objective attractiveness (as perceived by others): creates a lower limit on the kinds of people they
may pair up with
Subjective attractiveness (self-perception): creates an upper limit on the kinds of partners people seek out
This creates a balance where people tend to date within their range of objective and subjective attractiveness
levels