Attractiveness and Rivalry in Women’s Friendships with Women

Abstract

Past research suggests that young women perceive their same-sex friends as both facilitating the pursuit of desirable mates and competing for access to desirable mates. We propose that similar levels of physical attractiveness between young adult female friends might be one explanation for the opposing forces in their friendships. Forty-six female friendship pairs completed questionnaires about themselves, their friend, and their friendship; in addition, each woman’s picture was rated by a set of nine naive judges. Friends were similar in both self-rated and other-rated level of attractiveness. Within-pair analyses revealed that women agreed on which friend was more attractive, and the less attractive members of each friendship pair (by pair consensus as well as outside judges’ ratings) perceived more mating rivalry in their friendship than did the more attractive members of each friendship pair. We offer directions for research on women’s friendships over the lifespan.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Sarah Hubert and Stephanie Maves for help with data collection and entry. For helpful comments on previous versions of this manuscript, we thank two anonymous reviewers, Kendra Ahlquist, Mitchell Bunker, Eric Fuerstenberg, Jeffrey Goodman, Sarah Hammon, Lyndsay Nelson, Philip Rechek, Amy Steffes, and Joseph Westlin.

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Correspondence to April Bleske-Rechek.

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Bleske-Rechek, A., Lighthall, M. Attractiveness and Rivalry in Women’s Friendships with Women. Hum Nat 21, 82–97 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-010-9081-5

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Keywords

  • Women’s friendships
  • Same-sex friendship
  • Physical attractiveness
  • Rivalry