Physical characteristics are extremely important in our society.Females are often viewed as desirable if they have curvy bodies, long legs, and luxurious hair.Physique, height and a firm jawline are some characteristics that apply to men.It's evident that both sexes have youthfulness, even white teeth, and good facial symmetry.In the media, both implicitly and explicitly, there is a large amount of praise for these attractiveness models. .Consumer preferences are molded into unreality into the unreality of ideals, e.g., women being size zero, an industry devoted to promoting products by distorting the reality of what is normal into the unreality of ideals.

Due to the constant promotional of attractiveness based on physical traits rather than personality characteristics (such as kindness, intelligence, thoughtfulness, sense of humour) in western societies, you might expect that relationships would also be based on physical characteristics.In fact, this assumption was proven false, but only up to a point.There are a variety of reasons why a relationship might be short-term fun or long-term commitment.

Studies suggest that what partners value also differs by gender. .On the other hand, men tend to emphasize their social status, so they use terms like ‘professional’ or ‘homeowner'.A range of research suggests that women 'think' that men want personal attractiveness, whereas men 'think' that women want security - the wording of the advertisements reflect what each gender 'thinks' the other wants.

A magazine or local newspaper should have an ad section for personals.Write down some brief notes about how the women describe themselves in the first twenty 'women seeking men', then do the same for the first twenty 'men seeking women'.Are your findings in agreement with Cameron et al?


In this activity you started with a research question related to gender differences in how people promote themselves to potential partners. You then identified relevant ‘gender samples’ and then you undertook an analysis of the samples in relation to defined categories, which are items in the adverts that promote ‘socially favoured characteristics’ and those ‘promoting economic status’. So your research involved you taking a considered approach to ‘testing’ Cameron et al"s findings.

Clearly the sample would be too small and the source too limited to provide a thorough test of gender differences in how people promote themselves in personal ads these days.

Psychology experts suggest that a better understanding of why particular attributes are regarded as attractive requires a look at human evolution.

.Their research focused on heterosexual manhood.

They pose the question of whether there are physical characteristics that are found to be attractive across cultures. If so, do these characteristics signal procreative potential as predicted by psychologists taking an evolutionary approach to explaining behaviour? Swami and Furnham conclude that there is research evidence to suggest that there are characteristics that have been shown to be attractive across cultures. The physical characteristics for females focus on body shape, especially the waist to hip measurement ratio (WHR). A WHR measure of 0.8 means that a person"s waist measurement is 80 per cent of their hip measurement.


.In most cultures, men prefer women with a WHR of 0.7 over women with a higher WHR.This is supported by the fact that modern day supermodels and film stars from the 1950s like Marilyn Monroe, as well as the legendary (armless) Venus de Milo statue, have WHRs in the 0.7 range.

However body weight may be even more important than WHR in determining attractiveness and Swami and Furnham report on research that shows some variation among cultures when they looked at this measure. Generally, in economically developed societies men tend to prefer women with a lighter build, while men in economically developing societies tend to prefer a heavier build. These cultural differences are explained by evolutionary psychologists suggesting that in societies where food supplies were poor or uncertain it was understandable that women with a high body weight would be seen as better choice of partner. In economically developed societies these more basic considerations which are focused on survival in difficult environments are not relevant and other factors may come into play.

The evolutionary approach is controversial, with most psychologists viewing it as much too simplistic, but it does offer a wide-ranging explanatory framework within which to begin to understand and interpret human behaviour.

Among the cultural variations in what people consider attractive for intimate relationships, Swami and Furnham have discussed some.Apart from the characteristics discussed above, many other factors have also been considered to influence attractiveness.Upon evaluating signs of healthiness, wealth or status may then be taken into consideration. .Interestingly, with increased research and public awareness about sun tanning, people who have tans or sunburned skin are viewed as negative.

There are numerous examples, taken from different cultures, of more unusual physical adornments that have been considered to be attractive. In China the practice of female foot-binding was carried out for hundreds of years before being banned in 1911. The process was started when girls were about five years old and the ideal was to have feet no longer than four inches. As you can imagine this was an extremely painful process and girls and women were often unable to walk more than the shortest distance. This was a status symbol and only carried out on girls from wealthy families who would be expected to marry into a similarly wealthy family. Girls from poorer backgrounds would be expected to work, which would be impossible with bound feet. Similarly in Renaissance Europe women would often blacken their teeth to appear more attractive. The explanation for this is that sugar was only available to the very wealthy and sugar did cause teeth to rot and turn black so by painting your teeth black you could appear to be of high economic status and therefore a desirable person.


More recently, tattoos and skin piercing (currently popular in western societies) have become a must-have adornment for many people. These are just some examples of the kaleidoscopic range of body adornments that have been found to be attractive for different cultures. And there is the world-wide industry of male and female make-up, clothing design and cosmetic surgery that focuses so obviously on enhancing physical features. Our desire to establish intimate relationships will lead us to seek out certain people and present ourselves in the way that we feel will be most attractive to others. This in turn is shaped by the particular culture that we live in.

The emphasis our society places on physical attractiveness would suggest that each of us would seek long-term romantic relationships with the most attractive people we meet. But some of the research into relationship formation suggests that we are in fact more realistic and that we tend to form relationships with partners who are more of a physical ‘match’ to ourselves. This is called the matching hypothesis and has been supported by a number of studies. In one Bernard Murstein (1972) showed pictures of ninety-nine couples to participants. The pictures were separate so the participants could not know who paired with whom. Participants were asked to rate each picture for physical attractiveness. The scores for physical attractiveness of the real couples were much more similar than scores for randomly assigned couples.

This matching hypothesis does not contradict the previous view that we are attracted to people who are physically very attractive, but just highlights how, when it comes to actually making a choice, we temper ideals with a sense of realism. This process is sometimes explained in terms of costs and rewards. The costs of searching for a dream partner would be so high, if you consider the time needed and the likelihood of rejection if they are much more attractive than you are. Similarly people are not usually attracted to someone who is much less attractive than they are, because while the costs would be low, so would the rewards. Other psychologists suggest that, rather than being afraid of rejection, we are actually happier with someone more like ourselves, which ties in with what you were reading earlier about being attracted to people who are similar to us in all sorts of ways.

The schema definition in Section 3.4 is an effort to help you grasp the concept of a schema.An ideal schema would be a repository for all your knowledge about objects, situations, groups of people, even yourself.In the view discussed here, people carry a mental schema on how they wish their partner would behave and they search for people who are similar to this.Research on schemas suggests that factors other than physical attractiveness are more likely to be important in choosing a long-term partner.Among unmarried college students in the US, David Buss (1994) found that its three main characteristics were: having a kind and understanding personality, having an exciting personality, and being intelligent.

4.4 Similarity
4.6 Staying together or falling apart

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