People often think that successful people are attractive. But what about their less successful counterparts? Are they destined to be seen as less attractive? In a study involving hypothetical job applicants, those candidates described as being “underdogs” -- i.e., they were unlikely to get a particular job due to unfair circumstances beyond their control (e.g., their application had been misplaced by a secretary) -- were rated as especially physically attractive and desirable to date compared to candidates who were (a) unfairly advantaged (i.e., had a friend pressuring the employer to hire them) or (b) were unlikely to get the job due to their own incompetence (i.e., they failed to follow directions on the job application). That’s right…being an underdog can be hot if your failures are not your own fault.
Entries in attractiveness (14)
Chad Michael Murray, the actor from One Tree Hill, once said, “To all the girls out there who think being funny is not sexy, you are wrong!” Not only has a point, but there is some research to back him up. Two guys walk into a bar… and according to research, whomever women consider funnier will also be seen as more attractive and suitable for a long-term relationship.1 Having a funny partner may simply make them more fun to be around, but it is also possible that a good sense of humor indicates that a person has advanced language skills, creativity, abstract thinking, and intelligence.2 Put another way, a quick wit may signal the quality of a potential partner’s genetic make-up, which can lead that person to appear more attractive. Then again, maybe attractive people are more likely to be naturally funny, or are more likely to be perceived by others as funny. Recent research delves deeper into these issues to answer two key questions: Is being funny more attractive for short-term or long-term relationships? Does physical attractiveness influence ratings of funniness?
As a diligent reader of Science of Relationships, you’ve read our past articles on how wearing the color red is more than just a fashion choice. For example, you know that men find women more attractive in red because red is seen as an indication of more sexual receptivity. Women also find men who wear red sexually exciting. These findings make it sound like everyone’s date-night wardrobe is set for life – just pick out something red! But anything that easy has to have a catch, right? Before you slip into that new red shirt or dress for your next hot date, you might want to keep reading...
About 10 years ago I had a short-lived, whirlwind romance with a man who was taking a long break from a complicated relationship with another woman. Once things got emotionally intimate with me, he bolted back to her and they eventually married. I was devastated. Despite my initial grief, we remain a presence in each other’s lives. Although we have transitioned to being only friends, there has always been a flirtatious quality to our interactions. I refer to him as The Question Mark because I have always had the “what if” question haunting me about him. What if he had been more available when we first started dating? What if our career paths were not so different? What would happen if we lived in the same city today, now that we are both single again?
This month is “Movember,” an international movement to raise awareness about men’s health, particularly prostate and testicular cancer. Men participating in “Movember” grow moustaches and raise money to fund cancer education and research.1 Yet, Movember may have an added benefit for relationships: women rate men with a full beard as more masculine, socially mature, dominant, and aggressive than they rate clean-shaven men. However, men with light stubble fare best on ratings of attractiveness and desirability for short-term and long-term relationships.2 Historically, men tend to grow facial hair during years that competition for mates is more intense (for example, moustaches were particularly popular in the early 1900s, based on images in the Illustrated London News),3 suggesting that facial hair fashion trends are attuned to the effect facial hair has on women’s judgments.
Most of us have experienced a gut-cringing moment in which we made an embarrassing comment or did something idiotic in front of a person we were trying to impress. Even smart guys are not immune to this; look at how The Big Bang Theory’s Leonard Hofstadter’s staggering IQ of 170+ plummets whenever he sees Penny. Unfortunately, guys, it looks like this cognitive decline in the presence of the opposite sex affects only those in the male population.
It’s summer again, and that means warm weather, beach vacations, and the dreaded bathing suit! Growing up on the coast, I figured I’d eventually get used to the summertime show-and-tell of swimsuit season. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
Just recently, I was at the beach with my family and we were looking for a place to plant our chairs. One male member quickly picked the perfect spot. It did not occur to me until I sat down that what made this such a prime location was its proximity to some college-aged, scantily-clad, bathing beauties. It would have been awesome if I had not noticed, or if I had just been happy for those young girls and resisted the urge to compare myself. Regrettably, that was not the case.
I attended an interesting talk yesterday by Dr. Edward Lemay and his colleagues about how people use deception in their relationships. He wanted to know what motivates people to lie when their girlfriend or boyfriend asks how they look. For example, if you don’t think they look very physically attractive, do you tell the truth?
Because we’re geeks, we can’t stop thinking about our earlier write-up of the iVillage.com Hot Dads contest. Most of the features we highlighted this past Monday suggest that a lot of what likely makes a dad hot are the same characteristics that make a man hot. But as any good psychologist will tell you, context matters. And we’re not talking about just judging hotness of men in general, we’re talking about judging hotness in dads. And part of what should make a dad hot is his ability to fulfill his role as father (at least we hope it matters!). So thinking more about the ‘dad’ context led us to suspect several other cues or features should (or could) also come into play when evaluating the future winner of iVillage.com’s Hot Dads Contest.
When we first opened the e-mail from iVillage.com, with “2nd Annual Hot Dads Contest” in the subject line, we (as fathers) couldn’t help but be flattered. Reality quickly kicked in, however, when we read the actual message and learned that iVillage was hoping that ScienceOfRelationships.com could spread the word about their Hot Dads contest (still flattering, but not quite so ego-boosting). After dusting off our egos, we did what any good relationship scientist would do: we began to wonder what makes a “Hot Dad” hot? In other words, when iVillage.com readers comb through the hundreds of photos of men on the site, how are they judging relative dad-hotness?
Like it or not, one of the most influential factors in romantic attraction is physical attractiveness. That’s right, hotness! While some may denounce or shy away from this fact for fear of sounding superficial, the dirty little secret is that we’re all subject to the “beautiful is good” belief. Psychologists’ refer to this beauty bias as the “attractiveness stereotype,” and for decades they’ve shown that people have a tendency to assume that those who are physically attractive are not only desirable because they’re hot, but also because they are believed to possess a number of other socially desirable traits.
Let’s face it. Some of us are physically attractive. Others are…well…not so much. Logic tells us that we can’t all be above average in attractiveness. So how do you know if you are physically attractive or not? Who should you ask? Well, the answer to that question lies in the kind of answer you want. Do you want the truth, or would you rather just feel good about yourself? (Unfortunately, these aren’t always the same thing.)
Ever notice how TV-couple wives are thinner than their husbands? It’s no accident. Researchers followed 169 newlywed couples’ body mass indexes (BMI) for four years. Happier marriages were those in which wives were thinner than husbands, regardless of income, education, and partners’ absolute BMI. Thus, it’s not about being skinny, per se. It is the relative difference in BMI that predicts satisfaction. Maybe the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach.
Meltzer, A. L., McNulty, J. K., Novak, S. A., Butler E. A., & Karney, B. R. (2011). Social Psychological and Personality Science. doi: 10.1177/1948550610395781