The two data sets allowed the researchers to first determine whether individuals perceived as less attractive by others are more willing to date others who are also perceived as less attractive, and second to see whether people’s own attractiveness affects their ratings of others’ attractiveness. Would the less attractive rate potential dates are being more attractive than they really were?
Their findings should surprise no one — more attractive people tended to prefer potential dates who were also rated as more attractive.
The researchers also found that a person’s own attractiveness didn’t influence how they rated others. People rated highly attractive by others were rated similarly by the participants in the study, regardless of how attractive (or unattractive) the participant was. People don’t delude themselves into thinking that when they date someone as unattractive as themselves, that the person they date is more attractive than they really are.
The researchers also confirmed the well-worn finding that people sought out dates of similar attractiveness levels (or people who slightly more attractive).
In a small add-on study of 24 speed dating participants, the researchers also found that less attractive people tended to place less weight on physical attractiveness (no surprise) and greater weight on characteristics that had nothing to do with attractiveness, such as one’s sense of humor.
The upshot? People find others similarly attractive ala universal characteristics of beauty no matter their own physical attractiveness levels. And we tend to date people who are similar in attractiveness to ourselves.
Lee, L., Loewenstein, G., Ariely, D., Hong, J. & Young, J. (2008). If I’m not hot, are you hot or not? Physical-attractiveness evaluations and dating preferences as a function of one’s own attractiveness. Psychological Science, 19(7), 669-677.