Factors affecting attraction: Physical attractiveness

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  • Factors affecting attraction: Physical attractiveness
    • Symmetry
      • Shackelford & Larsen (1997) found that people with symmetrical faces are rated as more attractive
      • It is thought that this is a signal of genetic fitness that cannot be faked (which makes it an 'honest' signal)
      • The associated 'robust' genes are likely to be passed on and therefore symmetry is perpetuated
      • Explanations based on physical attractivenesare evolutionary ones - we have evolved a liking for attributes that signal high quality.
    • Baby face features seen as attractive
      • Neotenous (baby face) features are thought to trigger protective and caring instincts, related to the formulation of attachment in infancy
      • This is also an evolutionary explanation because features that strengthen attachment are adaptive
    • Beyond the formation stage
      • Attractivenes is important after the formation stage of a relationship
      • For example, McNulty et al. (2008) found that initial attractivenes continued to be an important feature of the relationship after marriage
    • Halo effect describes how physical attractivenes is generalised
      • We hold preconceived ideas about the attributes of attractive people. We believe that all their other attributes are overwhelm-ingly positive
      • For example, Dion et al. (1972) found that physically attractive people are constituently rated as kind, strong, sociable and successful compared with unattractive people.
      • Palmer and Peterson (2010) found that physically attractive people were rated  more politically knowledgeable and competent than attractive people
        • This has implications and suggests politicians might be elected merely because they are considered physically attractive by enough voters
          • This shows that the halo effect can be observed in real-life situations
    • Matching hypothesis (Walster et al. 1966)
      • We choose a partner whose attractivenes matches ours
        • The hypothesis states that we choose partners that are of the same level of attractivenessto ourselves
        • To do this we need to assess our own value to a potential partner
        • For example, if we judge ourselves as 6/10 then we are likely to seek a mate of a similar level of attractiveness
      • Choosing a partner is a compromise
      • Choosing a partner is a compromise
        • Evolutionary theories suggest we should seek the most attractive males
        • However, we have to also balance the potential for being rejected because the partner we aim for is 'out of our league' in terms of attractiveness.
          • So we compromise by 'matching' attractiveness
      • Falster et al (1966) initial study failed to support the theory as they found students preferred partners who were more physically attractive than matching their level
        • However, Ferngold's (1988) meta-analysis of studies of 'actual' partners found a significant correlation in ratings of attractiveness between them
          • These findings from more realistic studies support the hypothesis even though the original studies did not
    • Taylor et al. (2011) found online daters sought dates with partners who were more attractive than themselves and did not consider their own level of attractiveness
      • The research involved actual dating choices (meeting people online is becoming increasinglypopular) yet it does not support the matching hypothesis
        • It may therefore be that the matching hypothesis no longer explains preferences regarding physical attractiveness in a useful way


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