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How Important are Looks?

March 26, 2016 |

It is the age-old question and one we are often asked at INTRO. You know, the one that we all want to address, but choose not to out of fear of being rude: just how important are looks? The answers people give to this old chestnut range from, “hugely important” to “not at all” and everything in between.

As professional Irish matchmakers, we try to marry our experience with the latest research available to us. Read on to discover just how important are looks to the development of chemistry. The answer may surprise you…

Uniqueness trumps looks and charisma

UT Austin researchers, Paul Eastwick and Lucy Hunt, wrote a paper that found that uniqueness actually defeats attractiveness, when compared to looks or charisma. They discovered that over time, who we believe is attractive will actually change. In fact, those that we weren’t so hot for at the start become much more so and vice versa for those that we were infatuated with at the start.

Their study was conducted over 3 months with students. At the start, consensus was pretty much the same as to who found who to be attractive. However, over time, it was determined that uniqueness actually trumped all desirable qualities including attractiveness, warmth, and the ability to provide a satisfying romantic relationship. This research is great for those that believe that they’ll never get the person of their dreams or that they’re ‘out of their league.’

Over Time Looks Rate Just as High Amongst Men and Women

What we say and what we do may differ though. Evolutionary psychologist, David M. Buss, from the University of Texas conducted a cross-generational study every 10 years from 1939 to 1989. Men and women ranked 18 characteristics that they wanted to be enhanced in a mate. The importance of good looks from men increased from 1.50 to 2.11 on a scale of 1-3 during the 50 years. As for women, they increased from 0.94 to 1.67.

Buss believes that this is due to, “physical appearance has gone up in importance for men and women about equally, corresponding with the rise in television, fashion magazines, advertising, and other media depictions of attractive models.” As noted earlier, it appears that over time, we may be more attracted to uniqueness; however, when given the choice, we do rate good looks as quite high for a mate.

Time does make the heart grow fonder

The Reward Theory of Attraction has a thing or two to tell us about how important looks are to developing chemistry. This theory finds that the more somebody makes us feel good, the more we begin to prioritize that relationship. Have you ever found yourself hanging out with a long term friend and suddenly developing feelings for them?

This theory explains the reason for this phenomenon. While we may have decided at first to just be friends, this changes due to the feelings that we associate with them. Generally, we have great experiences with our friends. We enjoy them and we think positively about them. It’s natural that these associations can turn into romantic feelings towards that person and suddenly, your good friend morphs into a potential mate.

Looks Do Matter In The Long Run

Harris Interactive found that long term relationships require both parties to mind their appearance and maintain their mutual attraction for things to go well in the long run. Medicis Aesthetic commissioned a survey, where they polled over 1000 men and women to determined their thoughts on physical attraction in long term relationships. The survey asked questions including, “How satisfied are you with your partner’s physical appearance?” and “How satisfied do you think your partner is with yours?” The survey found that 78% of both males and females stated that their partner’s physical appearance mattered to them.

If you’re thinking how do I keep my looks for a lifetime, be glad to know that physical appearance mattered most during the first 7 years of a long term relationship.

Beauty, the Eye and the Beholder

In the aggregate, the research initially challenges the polite view that looks don’t matter. However, it goes on to consistently say that, over time, how we perceive our partner or prospective partners, changes and a richer model of attractiveness emerges. From this we can see that perhaps prioritizing looks may not help you out in the long run?

Sure, we can each decide on a person’s attractiveness at the beginning, but will this original thought alter over time? Perhaps it’s time to reconsider those friendships that you hold dearly and determine if any romantic feelings could exist. You may discover that they do, that you do find them attractive, and wish to be with them for a lifetime.