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Added: Genna Henn - Date: Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Do men value physical attractiveness in a mate more than women? Scientists in numerous disciplines believe that they do, but recent research using speed-dating paradigms suggests that males and females are equally influenced by physical attractiveness when choosing potential mates.
Nevertheless, the premise of the current work is that sex differences in the importance of physical attractiveness are most likely to emerge in research on long-term relationships. Accordingly, the current work drew from four independent, longitudinal studies to examine sex differences in the implications of partner physical attractiveness for trajectories of marital satisfaction. Whereas husbands were more satisfied at the beginning of the marriage and remained more satisfied over the next four years to the extent that they had an attractive wife, wives were no more or less satisfied initially or over the next four years to the extent that they had an attractive husband.
These findings strengthen support for the idea that gender differences in self-reported preferences for physical attractiveness do have implications for long-term relationship outcomes. Biologists e. The goal of the current research was to reconcile this disagreement. In pursuit of this goal, the rest of this introduction is divided into four sections. The first section reviews theoretical and empirical work suggesting that partner physical attractiveness is more important to men than it is to women.
The second section describes recent research that questions this position. The third section distinguishes between sex differences in preferences for short-term versus long-term partners to more closely evaluate the data on sex differences in the implications of partner physical attractiveness for relationships. Evolutionary psychologists were among the first to propose that men and women differ in their preference for physically attractive mates. Because youth and physical appearance e. Given that physical attractiveness was not a strong marker of male fertility, in contrast, women would not have benefited as much as men from mating with attractive partners and thus should not have evolved as strong a preference for physically attractive partners.
As Bussp. Consistent with this idea, a robust body of empirical research demonstrates that, when asked about their ideal mate, heterosexual men indicate a stronger preference for physical attractiveness than do heterosexual women. For example, across a nationally representative United States sample, men stated stronger preferences for a physically attractive partner than did women Sprecher et al. Moreover, Buss demonstrated that this sex difference generalized across 37 cultures.
Providing the strongest evidence that men more strongly prefer a physically attractive partner than do women, Feingoldreported that the sex difference held in meta-analyses using five different research paradigms. For example, Eastwick and Finkel had male and female participants a self-report the importance of physical attractiveness in an ideal romantic partner, b attend a speed-dating session, and c indicate their romantic interest and steps toward relationship initiation with their speed-date matches as well as other potential partners that they may have met outside of the speed-dating paradigm up to 10 times following that speed-dating session.
Moreover, Eastwick and colleagues demonstrated that although self-reported preferences for partner physical attractiveness predicted the extent to which participants were romantically interested in opposite-sex people depicted in photographs, they did not predict their romantic interest in real-life, opposite-sex speed-daters or confederates.
Why does this difference between self-reported mate preferences and real-world mate selection emerge? In the words of Eastwick and Finkelp. Before we accept the conclusion that people do not understand something as fundamental about themselves as what they want in Jackson student seeking female study partner partner, and before we dismiss conventional wisdom based on decades of evolutionary theory and research, we should consider alternative explanations for why self-report data on partner preferences may be inconsistent with behavioral data on relationship initiation. One such alternative is that the types of relationships intimates are considering when they self-report their preferences are not the same types of relationships for which they are choosing mates in speed-dating studies.
The self-report studies that demonstrate sex differences in the importance of partner attractiveness frequently ask participants to report on their ideal partner for a long-term relationship. The college-student participants in the speed-dating studies, in contrast, may have been looking for different types of relationships.
Although some of them may have been seeking long-term mates, it is likely that many were seeking short-term mates. Indeed, Eastwick and Finkelp. Differences in the types of relationships participants were considering in these two lines of research may explain the different that have emerged across them. In fact, Thornhill and Gangestad explicitly warn against evaluating sex differences in the implications of partner physical attractiveness in the context of short-term relationships.
Given that speed-dating studies may attract volunteers who are disproportionately likely to be seeking short-term relationships, the tendency for those men and women to give equal weight to physical attractiveness when choosing partners may have driven the null sex difference in the impact of physical attractiveness on mate choice that emerged in those studies and obscured any differences between the men and women who were choosing long-term partners.
Consistent with Jackson student seeking female study partner possibility, Eastwick and Finkel reported a supplemental analysis that revealed evidence for the expected sex difference. How should research determine whether partner physical attractiveness is indeed differentially important to men and women in the context of their long-term relationships? The strongest test of this possibility would meet several methodological standards. First, it would utilize samples of young couples involved in long-term relationships. As noted above, evolutionary perspectives suggest that sex differences in the implications of physical attractiveness are most likely to emerge in the context of long-term relationships.
Thus, any test of such differences must involve couples who are involved in long-term relationships. Moreover, evolutionary perspectives make the clearest predictions with respect to younger individuals. Because the aspects of physical attractiveness that reflect fertility e. Second, the strongest test would involve relationship satisfaction as the outcome measure. Third, the strongest test would obtain objective ratings of partner physical attractiveness, rather than self- or partner-ratings, as self- and partner-ratings are likely to be confounded with relationship satisfaction or variables that may be associated with satisfaction.
For example, processes of sentiment override Weiss, may lead more satisfied spouses to rate their partners as more attractive. If so, and if such processes operate equally as strongly among men and women, partner reports of attractiveness may be equally correlated with satisfaction for both men and women even if objective levels of partner attractiveness are themselves differentially important to men and women. Likewise, self-reports of partner attractiveness may be associated with individual difference variables, such as self-esteem, dominance-orientation, and self-presentational concerns, and any of these factors may be associated with satisfaction.
Using objective ratings of physical attractiveness would minimize the influence of these confounds. Fourth, the strongest test would contain and control for factors confounded with even objective ratings of attractiveness. Although using objective ratings of physical attractiveness helps minimize the influence of factors confounded with perceptions of attractiveness, it does not eliminate the influence of variables confounded with even objective ratings of physical attractiveness.
Even people who are objectively more attractive—that is, have facial symmetry, strong jawline for menlarge eyes and full lips for women — have different qualities and experiences than less attractive people. For example, they are younger, have more financial resources, and are more socially skilled Symons, ; Williams, ; for review, see Langlois et al.
These factors may for any observed association between objective ratings of partner attractiveness and relationship satisfaction. Such effects of correlated variables must be statistically controlled to truly isolate the effects of objective ratings of physical attractiveness. Fifth, the strongest test would utilize data from both members of the couple so that levels of own attractiveness could be controlled.
Finally, the strongest test would utilize longitudinal data. Only studies involving multiple reports of relationship satisfaction from spouses over a substantial period of time can clarify whether sex differences in the implications of partner attractiveness emerge on one or both of these components of the trajectory of relationship satisfaction.
Specifically, Eastwick, Luchies, Finkel, and Hunt in press meta-analyzed 97 published and unpublished studies and reported no aggregate sex differences in the association between partner attractiveness and various indices of relationship quality. Nevertheless, several aspects of that meta-analysis limit the extent to which it adequately addresses the current question regarding sex differences in the impact of physical attractiveness in long-term, established relationships. First, only five of the 97 studies utilized samples of couples who were clearly involved in a long-term relationship i.
As noted earlier, self- and partner-reports of physical attractiveness are likely to be confounded with various factors that may cloud any sex differences in the impact of attractiveness on satisfaction, including satisfaction itself. Further, sex differences in the importance of partner attractiveness are most likely to emerge in established, long-term relationships, and it is not clear which of the partners in the dating studies that were included in the meta-analysis were involved in long-term versus short-term relationships.
Second, two of the five studies involving third-party ratings of physical attractiveness of married individuals utilized ratings of physical attractiveness that were made by the study experimenters, judges who may have been biased by their extended interactions with both members of the couple. Third, another two of these five studies utilized older married couples rather than younger individuals; because aspects of physical attractiveness that reflect fertility decrease with age, the predicted sex difference may be less prominent in samples of older couples.
Finally, the meta-analysis examined all effects cross-sectionally and thus did not examine or for the extent to which satisfaction fluctuates and changes over time. Given evolutionary theories that argue for notable sex differences in the importance of partner physical attractiveness in romantic relationships, and given recent data questioning that hypothesis, the goal of this study was to examine associations between partner physical attractiveness and relationship outcomes in the context where sex differences are most likely to emerge—long-term relationships.
In pursuit of this goal, we drew upon data from four independent, longitudinal studies of newlywed couples. Given the parallel des of all four studies, data Jackson student seeking female study partner each were combined and analyzed simultaneously with growth curve modeling. Sex differences in the implications of partner physical attractiveness could emerge in two ways in these longitudinal studies. Data were drawn from four existing independent, four-year, multiwave longitudinal studies of newlyweds.
Participants in Study 1 2 were 82 newlywed couples and participants in Study 2 were newlywed couples, both recruited from a Northern Florida community surrounding a major state university; participants in Study 3 were 72 newlywed couples recruited from a Northern Ohio community surrounding a regional campus of a major state university; and participants in Study 4 were newlywed couples recruited from an East Tennessee community surrounding a major state university.
Couples in all four studies were recruited using two methods. The first was to place advertisements in community newspapers and bridal shops, offering payment to couples willing to participate in a study of newlyweds. The second was to send invitations to eligible couples who had completed marriage applications in counties near each study location. All couples responding to either solicitation were screened for eligibility in an initial telephone interview.
Inclusion required that a this was the first marriage for each partner, b the couple had been married less than 6 months, c each partner was at least 18 years of age, d each partner spoke English and had completed at least 10 years of education to ensure comprehension of the questionnairesand e couples did not have children and wives were not older than 35 in Studies 1, 2, and 4 to allow a similar probability of transitioning to first parenthood for all couples, as part of the larger aims of the studies; Study 3 did not have this criterion.
Eligible couples were scheduled for an initial laboratory session. Descriptive statistics for each sample are presented in Table 1. As the table reveals, participants were of comparable age across all four samples, with both spouses in their mids and husbands being slightly older than wives on average. Further, a large proportion of participants in Studies 1 and 2 were full-time students at the baseline assessment, whereas a large proportion of participants in Studies 3 and 4 were employed full time at the baseline assessment. Procedures were nearly identical in all four studies.
Before their initial laboratory session, participants were mailed a packet of questionnaires to complete at home and bring with them to their appointment. This packet included self-report measures of demographics, several individual difference measures, a measure of marital satisfaction, and a letter instructing spouses to complete all questionnaires independently of one another.
As part of a subsequent laboratory session, all spouses viewed and ed a letter of consent approved by the local institutional review board. Additionally, spouses in Studies 1, 2, and 3 participated in a videotaped discussion, whereas spouses in Study 4 had their photograph taken, which provided objective information regarding the physical attractiveness of each person as described in the next section. At approximately six-month intervals subsequent to the initial assessment, couples were recontacted by phone and again mailed marital satisfaction questionnaires, along with postage-paid return envelopes and a letter of instruction reminding couples to complete the forms Jackson student seeking female study partner of one another.
This procedure was used at all follow-up procedures except Time 5 in Studies 1—2 and Time 6 in Study 4; those sessions resembled the baseline assessment. Attractiveness ratings for spouses in Studies 1, 2, and 3 were made using videotapes of the couples engaging in a discussion, whereas attractiveness ratings for spouses in Study 4 were made using photographs taken of each spouse. Consistent with findings that people within and across cultures show very high levels of agreement about who is attractive Langlois et al. To assess levels of attractiveness, in each study, we computed the mean attractiveness rating across raters for each spouse.
The QMI is a six-item scale asking spouses to report the extent to which they agree or disagree with general statements about their marriage e. Higher scores reflect more positive satisfaction with the relationship.
To ensure that partner physical attractiveness did not appear to be associated with marital satisfaction only because it is associated with related factors, several covariates were assessed and controlled. Specifically, to ensure that partner physical attractiveness did not appear Jackson student seeking female study partner be associated with marital satisfaction only because it is related to the ability to offer other resources to the spouse, we also assessed and controlled two indices of the ability to offer resources to the spouse that may be correlated with physical attractiveness: age and years of education.
This subscale consists of 10 statements with which participants indicate their extent of agreement on a scale ranging from 1 Strongly Disagree to 5 Strongly Agree. Items were averaged such that higher scores reflect higher levels of extraversion. Notably, as has been true in other samples of couples e. We used restricted maximum likelihood estimation and placed no restrictions on the autoregressive error structures. The primary analyses examined whether partner attractiveness ed for this variability, and whether it did so to a different degree for husbands and wives. To test this prediction, all parameters estimated in Equation 1 i.
The of this analysis are presented in Table 3. Most importantly, consistent with the prediction that the association between partner attractiveness and satisfaction would be stronger among men than women, a direct test using the hypothesis testing option in the Hierarchical Linear Jackson student seeking female study partner 6. Effects of the three dummy-coded study covariates are excluded for the sake of simplicity and brevity. Effect size r reported. The effects of own attractiveness on marital satisfaction can also be seen in Table 3.
Recent research has questioned this assumption, however, by demonstrating that men and women do not differentially choose more attractive partners over less attractive ones in speed-dating studies e. Nevertheless, given that these studies are likely to confound short-term and long-term dating preferences, and given that sex differences in the importance of partner physical attractiveness are expected to emerge only in the context of long-term relationships, we used data drawn from four independent four-year, eight-wave longitudinal studies of new marriages to examine the implications of partner attractiveness for the trajectory of marital satisfaction.
Whereas husbands were more satisfied at the beginning of the marriage and remained that way over the first four years of marriage to the extent that they had a more attractive wife, wives were no more or less satisfied initially or over time to the extent that they had a more attractive husband.
In other words, contrary to the conclusion that people do not know something as fundamental about themselves as what they want in a partner, the sex-differentiated preference for an attractive partner that men and women have stated in a robust literature spanning more than 20 years e. Notably, wives in the current studies remained more satisfied over the first four years of marriage to the extent that they themselves were more attractive.Jackson student seeking female study partner
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