Sex Roles

, Volume 21, Issue 9–10, pp 591–607 | Cite as

The importance to males and females of physical attractiveness, earning potential, and expressiveness in initial attraction

  • Susan Sprecher
Article

Abstract

In an experimental study, male and female university students were asked to indicate how attracted they were to an opposite gender stimulus person after being presented information about the person's physical attractiveness, earning potential, and expressiveness. As hypothesized, subjects were more attracted to a physically attractive person than to a physically unattractive person, more attracted to a person with high earning potential than to a person with low earning potential, and more attracted to a high-expressive person than to a low-expressive person. Of these three characteristics, physical attractiveness had the greatest effect on attraction. Contrary to sex role stereotypes, males and females were similarly affected by these partner characteristics. Gender differences, however, did emerge in the subjects' estimates of the effects of these characteristics on their attraction. Consistent with sex role stereotypes, males placed greater emphasis than females on physical attractiveness, and females placed greater emphasis than males on earning potential and expressiveness. The discrepancy between the experimental results and the subjects' perceptions of how the factors affected their attraction were interpreted to indicate that people may not be aware of what attracts them to another and may use “implicit causal theories” provided by the culture to explain their attraction responses.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Brehm, S. S. Intimate relationships. New York: Random House, 1985.Google Scholar
  2. Buss, D. M., & Barnes, M. Preferences in human mate selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1986, 50, 169–174.Google Scholar
  3. Byrne, D., Ervin, C. E., & Lambert, J. Continuity between the experimental study of attraction and the real-life computer dating. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1970, 16, 157–165.Google Scholar
  4. Cameron, C., Oskamp, S., & Sparks, W. Courtship American style: Newspaper ads. The Family Coordinator, 1977, 26, 27–30.Google Scholar
  5. Coombs, R. H., & Kenkel, W. F. Sex differences in dating aspirations and satisfaction with computer-selected partners. Journal of Marriage, 1966, 28, 62–66.Google Scholar
  6. Curran, J. P., & LKippold, S. The effects of physical attractiveness and attitude similarity on attraction in dating dyads. Journal of Personality, 1975, 43, 528–539.Google Scholar
  7. Deaux, K., & Hanna, R. Courtship in the personal column: The influence of gender and sexual orientation. Sex Roles, 1984, 1, 363–375.Google Scholar
  8. Duck, S., & Sants, H. On the origin of the specious: Are personal relationship really interpersonal states? Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 1983, 1, 27–41.Google Scholar
  9. Friedman, H. W., Riggio, R. E., & Casella, D. F. Nonverbal skill, personal charisma, and initial attraction. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1988, 14, 203–211.Google Scholar
  10. Green, S. K., Buchanan, D. R., & Heuer, S. K. Winners, losers, and choosers: A field investigation of dating initiation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1984, 10, 502–511.Google Scholar
  11. Harrison, A. A., & Saeed, L. Let's make a deal: An analysis of revelations and stipulations in lonely hearts advertisements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1977, 35, 257–264.Google Scholar
  12. Hatfield, E., & Sprecher, S. Mirror mirror.... The importance of looks in everyday life. New York: State University of New York Press, 1986.Google Scholar
  13. Hill, R. Campus values in mate selection. Journal of Home Economics, 1945, p. 37.Google Scholar
  14. Howard, J. A., Blumstein, P., & Schwartz, P. Social or evolutionary theories? Some observations on preferences in human mate selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1987, 53, 194–200.Google Scholar
  15. Hoyt, L. L., & Hudson, J. W. Personal characteristics important in mate preference among college students. Social Behavior and Personality, 1981, 9, 93–96.Google Scholar
  16. Hudson, J. W., & Henze, L. F. Campus values in mate selection: A replication. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1969, 31, 772–775.Google Scholar
  17. Koestner, R., & Wheeler, L. Self-presentation in personal advertisements: The influence of implicit notions of attraction and role expectations. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1988, 5, 149–160.Google Scholar
  18. Laner, M. R. Parmanent partner priorities: Gay and straight. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1977, 2, 377–383.Google Scholar
  19. Lynn, M., & Bolig, R. Personal advertisements: Sources of data about relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1985, 2, 377–383.Google Scholar
  20. McGinnis, R. Campus values in mate selection: A repeat study. Social Forces, 1959, 36, 368–373.Google Scholar
  21. Meredith, M. The influence of physical attractiveness, independence, and honesty on date selection. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Psychology, Western Illinois University, 1972.Google Scholar
  22. Murstein, B. I. Who will marry whom? Theories and research in marital choice. New York: Springer, 1976.Google Scholar
  23. Nevid, J. S. Sex differences in factors of romantic attraction. Sex Roles, 1984, 11, 401–411.Google Scholar
  24. Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D. Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological Review, 1977, 84, 231–259.Google Scholar
  25. Riggio, R. E., & Woll, S. B. The role of nonverbal cues and physical attractiveness in dating choice. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1984, 1, 347–357.Google Scholar
  26. Snyder, M. Berscheid, E., & Glick, P. Focusing on the exterior and the interior: Two investigations on the initiation of personal relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1985, 48, 1427–1439.Google Scholar
  27. Stretch, R. H., & Figley, C. R. Beauty and the best: Predictions of interpersonal attraction in a dating experiment. Psychology: A Quarterly Journal of Human Behavior, 1980, 17, 35–43.Google Scholar
  28. Walster, E., Aronson, D., Abrams, D., & Rottmann, L. Importance of physical attractiveness in dating behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1966, 4, 508–516.Google Scholar
  29. Woll, S. So many to choose from: Decision strategies in videotaping. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1986, 3, 43–52.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Sprecher
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social WorkIllinois State UniversityNormal

Personalised recommendations