Monday, July 6, 2009

Men Have Consensus on Rating Attractiveness; The Women Don't

Interesting study - I suspect there is more variation in what men find attractive than the study suggests, but maybe I am a little odd compared to my peers.
Men Have Consensus on Rating Attractiveness; The Women Don't

Living - Relationships
TS-Si News Service
Sunday, 28 June 2009 08:00

Rating Attractiveness

Winston-Salem, NC, USA. It shouldn't come as a surprise that men, as a group, achive much greater consensus about whom they find attractive than do women. The surprising part of a new study is the degree to which such perceptions can be quantifed.

That is, the question before the researchers was not how attractive any individual might be (based on a subjective measure) but the commonality of perceived attractiveness when men and women are considered as separate groups. Answering the question required development of an objective scale and a diverse subject population.

"Men agree a lot more about who they find attractive and unattractive than women agree about who they find attractive and unattractive," says Dustin Wood, an assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University. "This study shows we can quantify the extent to which men agree about which women are attractive and vice versa."

More than 4,000 participants in the study rated photographs of men and women (ages 18-25) for attractiveness on a 10-point scale ranging from "not at all" to "very." In exchange for their participation, raters were told what characteristics they found attractive compared with the average person. The raters ranged in age from 18 to more than 70.

Before the participants judged the photographs for attractiveness, the members of the research team rated the images for how seductive, confident, thin, sensitive, stylish, curvaceous (women), muscular (men), traditional, masculine/feminine, classy, well-groomed, or upbeat the people looked.

Breaking out these factors helped the researchers figure out what common characteristics appealed most to women and men.

Wood and co-author Claudia Brumbaugh (Queens College) published their findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Men's judgments of women's attractiveness were based primarily around physical features and they rated highly those who looked thin and seductive. Most of the men in the study also rated photographs of women who looked confident as more attractive.

As a group, the women rating men showed some preference for thin, muscular subjects, but disagreed on how attractive many men in the study were. Some women gave high attractiveness ratings to the men other women said were not attractive at all.

Dustin Wood

"As far as we know, this is the first study to investigate whether there are differences in the level of consensus male and female raters have in their attractiveness judgments," Wood says. "These differences have implications for the different experiences and strategies that could be expected for men and women in the dating marketplace."

For example, women may encounter less competition from other women for the men they find attractive, he says. Men may need to invest more time and energy in attracting and then guarding their mates from other potential suitors, given that the mates they judge attractive are likely to be found attractive by many other men.

"The study helps explain why women experience stronger norms than men to obtain or maintain certain physical characteristics," he says. "Women who are trying to impress men are likely to be found much more attractive if they meet certain physical standards, and much less if they don't. Although men are rated as more attractive by women when they meet these physical appearance standards too, their overall judged attractiveness isn't as tightly linked to their physical features."

The age of the participants also played a role in attractiveness ratings. Older participants were more likely to find people attractive if they were smiling.

Wood says that among other things the study results have implications for eating disorders and how expectations regarding attractiveness affect behavior.


Using revealed mate preferences to evaluate market force and differential preference explanations for mate selection.
Dustin Wood, Claudia Chloe Brumbaugh. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96(6): 1226-1244


In this article the authors illustrate how revealed preferences (i.e., preferences inferred through an individual’s differential attraction to multiple targets) can be used to investigate the nature of mate preferences. The authors describe how revealed preferences can be estimated and how the reliability of these estimates can be established. Revealed preference estimates were used to explore the level of consensus in judgments of who is and is not attractive and whether revealed preferences are systematically related to self-reported mate preferences and personality traits. Revealed preference estimates were created for over 4,000 participants by examining their attraction to 98 photographs. Participants of both genders showed substantial consensus in judgments of whom they found attractive and unattractive, although men showed higher consensus than women. Revealed preference estimates also showed relationships with corresponding self-rated preferences and with other dispositional characteristics such as personality traits and age. Although the findings demonstrate the existence of meaningful individual differences in preferences, they also indicate an important role for consensual preferences in mate selection processes.

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