Factors affecting attraction - Physical Attractiveness and Matching Hypothesis

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  • Created on: 26-04-19 10:59


-          Attraction: we are more attracted to people who are more physically good-looking. Evolutionary theory suggests that physical indications of health, facial symmetry and resources suggest good genes – humans want the best genes for their offspring so they are automatically more attracted to these people.

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Halo Effect

-          Halo Effect: people who are more physically attractive are also seen to be more successful in other areas of life, such as being more intelligent, hard-working and sociable. This can lead to positive consequences for these people, meaning that people will interact more positively with them. This may mean that they do actually go on to be more successful in life.

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Matching Hypothesis

-          Matching Hypothesis: we can’t all mate with the most attractive member of society, so we use the matching hypothesis to find the most realistic mate:

-          We realistically appraise our own level of physical attractiveness in relation to others.

-          We tend to pick a partner who is at a similar level of attractiveness.

-          In this way, we avoid the pain of rejection which comes from chasing partners who are too attractive for us.

-          We are also more able to retain a partner who is similar to us because they are less likely to leave us and go off with somebody more attractive.

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Evaluative Research - Murstein (1972)

-          Murstein (1972): used photos of 197 couples that were either engaged or dating. Photos of the couples alone were used so that each partner could be rated individually. The pictures were given to 8 judges who measured their attractiveness rating. They found that couples were consistently given a similar attractiveness rating, compared to randomly matched partners. This suggests that as predicted by the matching hypothesis, partners will look for a mate based on them being of a similar level of attractiveness.

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Evaluative Research - Murstein (1972)

-          This study is supported by a meta analysis by Feingold in 1988. He used 18 studies on the matching hypothesis, including 1644 couples, and found that there was an overall positive correlation in the attractiveness ratings of couples.

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Building Evaluations

-          The matching hypothesis is seen to be a shallow explanation of factors affecting attraction. Many people like to think that whilst physical attractiveness may play a small role in attraction, it is personality that is more important.


-          The matching hypothesis may actually be more relevant with the development of technology. Dating apps and websites rely on pictures that determine whether or not you want to start talking to somebody, so physical attractiveness now does play a larger role in attraction. It also provides feedback on our own level of attractiveness.

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Building Evaluations

-          The Halo effect is evident in other areas, not just in attraction. For example, Landy and Aronson (1969) found that people who were more attractive were more likely to be given a lower sentence in court because attractiveness implied innocence. Also, Todorov (2005) found that the winners of American elections could be predicted just by choosing the most competent-looking one.


-          Matching hypothesis may be relevant in the initial stages of a relationship, such as selecting a partner, but social exchange theories suggest that physical attraction plays no role in the maintenance of a relationship – the costs, benefits and investments are more important. Therefore, matching hypothesis can’t explain why people stay in relationships.

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