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is therefore quite unlikely that infants learned these preferences.
Furthermore, a number of distinctly different cultures seem to have the same
biases. This doesnʼt necessarily mean that these biases arenʼt learned; various cultures
may simply value the same characteristics. Studies comparing judgments of physical
attractiveness in Korea and in the United States found agreement on whether a face
was attractive and whether the face conveyed a sense of power. In both countries, for
example, faces with broad chins, thin lips, and receding hairlines were judged to convey
dominance (Triandis, 1994).
Zebrowitz and her coworkers showed that appearances of both attractive people and
people with baby faces (round faces, large eyes, small nose and chin, high eyebrows)
affect how others treat them (Zebrowitz & Lee, 1999; Zebrowitz et al., 1998). Whereas
attractive people are thought to be highly competent both physically and intellectu-
ally, baby-faced individuals are viewed as weak, submissive, warm, and naive. What
happens when baby-faced individuals do not conform to the stereotype that they are
harmless? In a study of delinquent adolescent boys, Zebrowitz and Lee (1999) showed
that baby-faced boys, in contrast to more mature-looking delinquents, were punished
much more severely. This is a contrast effect: Innocent-looking people who commit
antisocial actions violate our expectations.
Although attractiveness and baby-facedness may have a downside when these
individuals run afoul of expectations, the upside is, as you might expect, that the posi-
tive expectations and responses of other people shape the personalities of attractive
individuals across their life (Zebrowitz et al., 1998). This is self-ful¬lling prophecy,
whereby attractive men who are treated positively because of their appearance become




Figure 9.2 Infant
¬xation time as a function
of the attractiveness of a
stimulus face. Infants as
young as 2- or 3-months-old
showed a preference for
an attractive face over an
unattractive face.
From Langlois and colleagues (1987).
Chapter 9 Interpersonal Attraction and Close Relationships 333

more socially secure as they get older. Similarly, Zebrowitz found that a man who had
an “honest” face in his youth tended to be more honest as he got older.
For baby-faced individuals, the effect over time was somewhat different. These
individuals become more assertive and aggressive over time, probably as a way of com-
pensating for the stereotype of a baby-faced individual as submissive and weak.
However, Zebrowitz and colleagues (1998) did not observe such a self-ful¬lling
prophecy for women. That is, attractive young women do not become more attractive
and competent socially as they age. Zebrowitz suggested further that less-attractive
women may learn to compensate by becoming more socially able to counteract the
negative image held of less-attractive women. This would explain the lack of signi¬-
cant differences in socially valued personality attributes between younger attractive and
less-attractive women as they age into their ¬fties. Interestingly, women who had an
attractive personality in their youth developed high attractiveness in their ¬fties, sug-
gesting, according to Zebrowitz, that women manipulated their appearance and presen-
tation (makeup, etc.) more then men did. It may be that this is due to womenʼs greater
motivation to present an attractive appearance because they have less power to achieve
their social goals in other ways (Zebrowitz et al., 1998).

Physique and the Attractiveness Bias
Physique also profoundly affects our perceptions of attractiveness. Buss (1994) observed
that the importance of physical attractiveness has increased in the United States in
every decade since the 1930s. This is true for both men and women, although men
rate physical attractiveness as much more important than do women. Our society has
widely shared notions of which bodily attributes are attractive. We have positive per-
ceptions of people who ¬t these notions and negative perceptions of those who do not.
We sometimes even display discriminatory behavior against those who deviate too far
from cultural standards.
People can be categorized by body type into ectomorphs (thin, perhaps underweight),
mesomorphs (athletic build), and endomorphs (overweight). Positive personality traits
tend to be attributed to mesomorphs and negative ones to people with the other body
types (Ryckman et al., 1991). There is some ambivalence about ectomorphs, especially
as societal attitudes toward thinness seem to shift, in¬‚uenced by such factors as an
increasing health consciousness and an association of excessive thinness with acquired
immunode¬ciency syndrome (AIDS). Perceptions of endomorphs, in contrast, remain
consistently negative. Of course, some people are more intensely attuned to physical
appearance than are others. It appears that those people who are most conscious of their
own appearance are the most likely to stereotype others on the basis of physique.
Certainly this is the case with regard to overweight individuals. Research con¬rms
that obese individuals are stigmatized and are the target of negative stereotypes in our
society. This bias cuts across genders. Obese men and women are likely to be stigma-
tized (Hebl & Turchin, 2005). These negative stereotypes exist on both the implicit
and explicit level (Wang, Brownell, & Wadden, 2004). In one study (Harris, 1990),
subjects judged a stimulus person who was depicted as either normal weight or (with
the help of extra clothing) obese. They evaluated “Chris,” the stimulus person, along
several dimensions including the likelihood that Chris was dating or married, her self-
esteem, and her ideal romantic partner. The results, almost without exception, re¬‚ected
negative stereotyping of an obese Chris compared to a normal-weight Chris. Subjects
judged that the obese Chris was less likely to be dating or married compared to the
normal-weight Chris. They also rated the obese Chris as having lower self-esteem than
the normal-weight Chris and felt that her ideal love partner should also be obese.
Social Psychology
334

Studies also show the practical consequences of these attitudes. For example, it
has been shown that overweight college students are less likely than other students to
get ¬nancial help from home (Crandall, 1991). This effect was especially strong with
respect to female students and was true regardless of the resources the studentʼs family
had, the number of children in the family, or other factors that could affect parentsʼ
willingness to provide ¬nancial help. The researchers suggested that the ¬nding might
be largely explained by parentsʼ negative attitudes toward their overweight children
and consequent lack of optimism about their future. In a related domain, there is evi-
dence that businesspeople sacri¬ce $1,000 in annual salary for every pound they are
overweight (Kolata, 1992).
Interestingly, the bias against fat people is shown by children. Children between
the ages of 2 and 5 were shown two line drawings of children. One of the drawings
showed a child who was 23% larger than the other. The children were asked to ascribe
various characteristics to the ¬gures in the drawing. The results showed that the children
were more likely to ascribe negative qualities to the larger ¬gure (Turnbull, Heaslip, &
McLeod, 2000). This ¬nding should not be surprising since these stereotypic images of
body image are portrayed in childrenʼs literature and movies (Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn,
Gokee-Larose, & Thompson, 2004). Just think, for example, about the Disney ¬lm
The Little Mermaid, in which the mermaid Ariel is depicted as a slim, beautiful, young
woman and the sea witch (the villain) is depicted as an obese, unattractive woman.
The bias against overweight people even extends into the world of health care. In
one study, for example, an implicit prejudice and implicit stereotypes were shown toward
overweight people by health care workers, a majority of whom were doctors (Teachman
& Brownell, 2001). There was, however, little evidence for an explicit prejudice. In
another study, doctors showed more negative attitudes toward hypothetical obese patients
than average-weight patients and that they would spend less time with an obese patient
(Hebl & Xu, 2001). Physicians indicated that they would be more likely to refer obese
patients for mental health care. The good news was, however, that doctors seemed to
follow an appropriate course of action with respect to weight-unrelated tests.
The bias against obese people may be culturally related. Western culture seems to
place a great deal of emphasis on body image (just take a look at the models [male and
female] used in advertisements). One cross-cultural study using British and Ugandan
participants showed that the Ugandan participants rated a drawing of an obese ¬gure
more positively than British participants (Furnham & Baguma, 2004). Another study
conducted in New Zealand found that obese job applicants were evaluated more nega-
tively than nonobese applicants (Ding & Stillman, 2005). The bias may also have a
racial component as well. One study found that black males stigmatized an obese person
less than white males and that black males are less likely to be stigmatized than white
males (Hebl & Turchin, 2005).
One reason obese individuals are vili¬ed is that we believe that their weight problem
stems from laziness and a lack of discipline. If we know that an individualʼs weight
problem is the result of a biological disorder and thus beyond his or her control, we are
less likely to make negative judgments of that individual (DeJong, 1980). What we fail
to realize is that most obese people cannot control their weight. There is a genetic com-
ponent in obesity, and this tendency can be exacerbated by social and cultural factors,
such as lack of information and an unhealthy lifestyle.
Attractiveness judgments and stereotyping in everyday life may not be as strong
as they are in some laboratory studies. In these studies, we make pure attraction judg-
ments: We see only a face or a physique. When we deal with people, we evaluate an
entire package even if much of what we see initially is only the wrapping. The entire
Chapter 9 Interpersonal Attraction and Close Relationships 335

package includes many attributes. A person may be overweight but may also have a
melli¬‚uous voice and a powerful personality. In a laboratory study in which subjects
were exposed to a personʼs face and voice, the perception of the personʼs physical
attractiveness was affected by judgments about that personʼs vocal attractiveness and
vice versa (Zuckerman, Miyake, & Hodgins, 1991). Gertrude Stein was a woman
many people found attractive even though she weighed over 200 pounds. Her striking
face and her powerful personality were the main attributes that people remembered
after meeting her.

Beauty and the View from Evolutionary Psychology
It is obvious that we learn to associate attractiveness with positive virtues and unat-
tractiveness with vice, even wickedness. Childrenʼs books and movies often portray
the good characters as beautiful and the villains as ugly. As noted, in the Walt Disney
movie The Little Mermaid, the slender, beautiful mermaid, Ariel, and the evil, obese
sea witch are cases in point. Such portrayals are not limited to works for children. The
hunchback of Notre Dame, the phantom of the opera, and Freddy Kruger are all physi-
cally unattractive evildoers.
Evolutionary psychologists suggest that perhaps beauty is more than skin deep.
Recall the research on the attractiveness of symmetrical faces. It seems that it is not
only humans who value symmetry but also a variety of other species. For example,
Watson and Thornhill (1994) reported that female scorpion ¬‚ies can detect and prefer
as mates males with symmetrical wings. Male elks with the most symmetrical racks
host the largest harems.

Mate Selection: Good Genes or Good Guys? Proponents of evolutionary psychology,
a sub¬eld of both psychology and biology, employ the principles of evolution to explain
human behavior and believe that symmetry is re¬‚ective of underlying genetic quality.
Lack of symmetry is thought to be caused by various stresses, such as poor maternal
nutrition, late maternal age, attacks by predators, or disease, and may therefore re¬‚ect
bad health or poor genetic quality. Thus, the preference for symmetry in potential mates,
whether human or animal, may be instinctive (Watson & Thornhill, 1994). Indeed,
even small differences matter. Twins with lower levels of symmetry are reliably rated
as less attractive than their slightly more symmetrical counterpart (Mealey, Bridgstock,
& Townsend, 1999).
The degree to which biology may control human mating preferences can be under-
scored by the ¬nding that the type of face a woman ¬nds attractive varies with her men-
strual cycle. Perret and Penton-Voak (1999) reported a study that showed that when a
woman is ovulating, she is more likely to prefer men with highly masculine features.
In contrast, during other times, men with softer, feminine features are preferred. The
researchers had numerous women from various countries”Japan, Scotland, England”
judge male faces during different parts of their menstrual cycles. The researchers believe
that these results are explained by the observation that masculine looks, in all of the
animal kingdom, denote virility and the increased likelihood for healthy offspring. In
a related ¬nding, Gangestad and Thornhill (1998) reported a study that showed that
females preferred the smell of a “sweaty” T-shirt worn by the most symmetrical males
but only if the women were ovulating.
Of course, it is likely that more choice is involved in mate selection than would be
indicated by these studies. In any event, most people do rebel against the notion that
decisions about sex, marriage, and parenthood are determined by nothing more than
body odor (Berreby, 1998).
Social Psychology
336

Certainly we would expect those with symmetrical appearances to become aware
of their advantages in sexual competition. For example, consider the following study by
Simpson and his coworkers. Heterosexual men and women were told that they would
be competing with another same-sex person for a date with an attractive person of the
opposite sex. The experimenters videotaped and analyzed the interactions among the
two competitors and the potential date. Men who had symmetrical faces used direct
competition tactics. That is, when trying to get a date with the attractive woman, sym-
metrical men simply and baldly compared their attractiveness (favorably) with the com-
petitor. Less-attractive (read as less-symmetrical-faced) men used indirect competitive
methods, such as emphasizing their positive personality qualities (Simpson, Gangestad,
Christensen, & Leck, 1999).
Gangestad and Thornhill (1998) have argued that physical appearance marked by
high symmetrical precision reveals to potential mates that the individual has good genes
and is, therefore, for both men and women, a highly desirable choice. These individuals,
especially men, should have fared very well in sexual competition during evolutionary
history. Why? Research suggests that greater symmetry is associated with higher sur-
vival rates as well as higher reproductive rates in many species (Simpson et al., 1999).
In men, it seems that certain secondary sexual attributes that are controlled by higher
levels of testosterone, such as enlarged jaws, chins, and so forth, may project greater
health and survival capability (Mealey, Bridgstock, & Townsend, 1999). Indeed, sym-
metrical men and women report more sexual partners and have sex earlier in life than
less symmetrical individuals. The more symmetrical the individual”again, especially
males”the more probable the person will have the opportunity for short-term sexual
encounters, and the more likely, as Simpson and colleagues (1999) found, they will use
direct competitive strategies to win sexual competitions.
Of course, good genes are not enough. Raising human offspring is a complicated,
long-term”some might say never-ending”affair, and having a good partner willing
to invest in parenthood is important. Indeed, theorists have developed what are called
“good provider” models of mate selection that emphasize the potential mateʼs commit-
ment to the relationship and ability to provide resources necessary for the long-term
health of that relationship (Gangestad & Thornhill, 1997; Trivers, 1972).

How to Attract a Mate David Buss, a prominent evolutionary social psychologist,
suggested that to ¬nd and retain a reproductively valuable mate, humans engage in love
acts”behaviors with near-term goals, such as display of resources the other sex ¬nds
enticing. The ultimate purpose of these acts is to increase reproductive success (Buss,
1988a, 1988b). Human sexual behavior thus can be viewed in much the same way as
the sexual behavior of other animal species.
Subjects in one study (Buss, 1988b) listed some speci¬c behaviors they used to
keep their partner from getting involved with someone else. Buss found that males
tended to use display of resources (money, cars, clothes, sometimes even brains),
whereas females tried to look more attractive and threatened to be unfaithful if the
males didnʼt shape up. Buss argued that these ¬ndings support an evolutionary inter-
pretation of mate retention: The tactics of females focus on their value as a reproduc-
tive mate and on arousing the jealousy of the male, who needs to ensure they are not
impregnated by a rival.
Jealousy is evoked when a threat or loss occurs to a valued relationship due to the
partnerʼs real or imagined attention to a rival (Dijkstra & Buunk, 1998). Men and women
respond differently to in¬delity, according to evolutionary psychologists, due to the fact
Chapter 9 Interpersonal Attraction and Close Relationships 337

that women bear higher reproductive costs than do men (Harris & Christenfeld, 1996).
Women are concerned with having a safe environment for potential offspring, so it
would follow that sexual in¬delity would not be as threatening as emotional in¬del-
ity, which could signal the maleʼs withdrawal from the relationship. Men, however,
should be most concerned with ensuring the prolongation of their genes and avoid-
ing investing energy in safeguarding some other maleʼs offspring. Therefore, males
are most threatened by acts of sexual in¬delity and less so by emotional ones. Thus,
males become most jealous when their mates are sexually unfaithful, whereas women
are most jealous when their mates are emotionally involved with a rival (Buss, 1994;
Harris & Christenfeld, 1996).
According to the evolutionary psychology view, males ought to be threatened by a
rivalʼs dominance, the ability to provide resources (money, status, power) to the female
in question, whereas women ought to be most threatened by a rival who is physically
attractive, because that attribute signals the potential for viable offspring. Indeed, a clever
experiment by Dijkstra and Buunk (1998), in which participants judged scenarios in
which the participantʼs real or imagined mate was ¬‚irting with a person of the opposite
sex, showed that dominance in a male rival and attractiveness in a female rival elicited
the greatest amount of jealousy for men and women, respectively.
Many of Bussʼs ¬ndings about human mating behavior are disturbing because both
men and women in pursuit of their sexual goals cheat and frustrate their mates and dero-
gate their rivals. However, some of his ¬ndings are kinder to our species. For example,
he points out that the most effective tactics for men who wish to keep their mates are
to provide love and kindness, to show affection, and to tell their mates of their love.

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