Physical attraction matters – for women too


Intellect, humor, kindness – in comparison to other characteristics, physical attractiveness often falls lower on the list of ideal qualities people look for in a partner, especially for women.  Until recently, researchers thought that having a physically attractive partner was more important to men than women.  However, a recent study shows that women are equally likely as men to pick a romantic partner based on looks, in some settings anyway.

Through a series of studies, researchers investigated how important physical attractiveness was in an ideal partner.  They measured importance in 2 ways: 1) directly – by asking people, and 2) indirectly – through associations and reaction times – a measure of unconscious desires.  Incidentally, what people said they wanted in a partner and what they unconsciously wanted were not related.

Men were more likely than women to say that they valued physical attraction in an ideal partner.  When choosing partners from photographs, men who valued physical attractiveness in a partner were more likely to choose dates who were physically attractive.

The story changed when participants were asked if they wanted to date someone after meeting them in person (rather than just seeing a photograph).  People were more likely to pick good-looking date if they unconsciously desired physical attractiveness in a mate.  Women were just as likely as men to choose someone based on physical attractiveness.

The bottom line – what you say you are looking for and what you want can be two different things.  When you are picking someone from a profile, logic might reign but after meeting someone in person, your gut instincts might matter more.  In other words, while logic might tell you looks don’t matter, your instincts could be saying something completely different.

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