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When we say that we like or love someone, we are experiencing interpersonal attraction — the strength of our liking or loving for another person. Although interpersonal attraction occurs between friends, family members, and other people in general, and although our analysis can apply to these relationships as well, our primary focus in this chapter will be on romantic attraction, whether in opposite-sex or same-sex relationships. None of the other characteristics—even the perceived intelligence of the partner—mattered.

Initial attraction

Movies and TV shows often feature unusually attractive people, TV use attractive people to promote their products, and many people spend considerable amounts of money each year to make themselves look more attractive. Similar patterns have been found in relation to online contexts. This agreement is in part due to shared norms within cultures about what is attractive, which may of course vary among cultures, but it is also due to evolutionary predispositions to attend to and be influenced by specific characteristics of others.

Leslie Zebrowitz and her colleagues have extensively studied the tendency for both men and women to prefer facial features that have youthful characteristics Zebrowitz, These features include large, round, and widely spaced eyes, a small nose and chin, prominent cheekbones, and a large forehead.

Zebrowitz has found that individuals who have youthful-looking faces are more liked, are judged as warmer and more honest, and also receive other positive outcomes. The preference for youth is found in our perceptions of both men and women but is somewhat stronger for our perceptions of women Wade, This is because for men, although we do tend to prefer youthful faces, we also prefer stereotypically masculine faces—those with low, broad jaws and with pronounced bone ridges and cheekbones—and these men tend to look somewhat older Rhodes, We may like baby-faced people because they remind us of babies, or perhaps because we respond to baby-faced people positively, they may act more positively to us.

Some faces are more symmetrical than others. People are more attracted to faces that are more symmetrical in comparison with those that are less symmetrical.

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This may be in part because of the perception that people with symmetrical faces are more healthy and thus make better reproductive mates Rhodes, ; Rhodes et al. The attraction to symmetry is not limited to face perception. Langlois and Roggman showed college students the faces of men and women.

The faces were composites made up of the average of 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 faces. The researchers found that the more faces that were averaged into the stimulus, the more attractive it was judged Figure 7. These features may also have evolutionary ificance—people with these characteristics probably appear to be healthy.

Although the preferences for youth, symmetry, and averageness appear to be universal, at least some differences in perceived attractiveness are due to social factors. What is seen as attractive in one culture may not be seen as attractive in another, and what is attractive in a culture at one time may not be attractive at another time.

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However, the norm of thinness has not always been in place. The preference for women with slender, masculine, and athletic looks has become stronger over the past 50 years in Western cultures, and this can be seen by comparing the figures of female movie stars from the s and s with those of today.

You might wonder whether men and women find different mates attractive. The answer is yes, although as in most cases with gender differences, the differences are outweighed by overall similarities. For men, however, the physical attractiveness of women is most important; women, although also interested in the attractiveness of men, are relatively more interested in the social status of a potential partner. The differences between the preferences of men and women for opposite-sex romantic partners have been demonstrated in archival research that has analyzed the placed in the classifieds of newspapers and online profiles.

The personal that men place when they are searching for women tend to focus on the preferred physical appearance of the desired partner.

Physical attractiveness

These findings seem to be due to universal preferences of men and women, because similar patterns have been found across cultures, and also in seeking same-sex partners Buss, Age also matters, such that the preference for youthful partners is more important for men than for women. Women have been found to be more likely to respond to personal placed by relatively older men, whereas men tend to respond to placed by younger women—men of all ages even teenagers are most attracted to women who are in their 20s.

Another research finding consistent with the idea that men are looking for cues to fertility in their partners is that across many cultures, men have a preference for women with a low waist-to-hip ratio i. On the other hand, women prefer men with a more masculine-appearing waist-to-hip ratio similar waist and hip size; Singh, ; Swami, And when asked about their regrets in life, men are more likely to wish they had had sex with more partners, whereas women more often than men wished they had tried harder to avoid getting involved with men who did not stay with them Roese et al.

These differences may be influenced by differential evolutionary-based predispositions of men and women.

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Because they do not need to invest a lot of time in child rearing, men may be evolutionarily predisposed to be more willing and desiring of having sex with many different partners and may be less selective in their choice of mates. Women on the other hand, because they must invest substantial effort in raising each child, should be more selective.

But gender differences in mate preferences may also be ed for in terms of social norms and expectations. Overall, on average, across the world as a whole, women still tend to have lower status than men, and as a result, they may find it important to attempt to raise their status by marrying men who have more of it. Men who, on average, already have higher status may be less concerned in this regard, allowing them to focus relatively more on physical attractiveness. You might find yourself wondering why people find physical attractiveness so important when it seems to say so little about what the person is really like as a person.

One reason that we like attractive people is because they are rewarding. We like being around attractive people because they are enjoyable to look at and because being with them makes us feel good about ourselves. Attractiveness can imply high status, and we naturally like being around people who have it.

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As we touched on earlier in our discussion of the what is beautiful is good heuristic, we may also like attractive people because they are seen as better friends and partners. These assumptions about the internal qualities of attractive people also show some cross-cultural consistency.

For example, individuals from Eastern and Western cultures tend to agree that attractiveness ifies qualities like sociability and popularity. The opposite was found in regards to traits stressing independence. One outcome of favorable evaluations of and behaviors toward attractive people is that they receive many social benefits from others.

We are all of course aware of the physical attractiveness stereotype and make use of it when we can. We try to look our best on dates, at job interviews, and not necessary, we hope! As with many stereotypes, there may be some truth to the what is beautiful is good stereotype.

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These are probably partly the result of self-fulfilling prophecies. Because people expect attractive others to be friendly and warm, and because they want to be around them, they treat attractive people more positively than they do unattractive people. However, as with most stereotypes, our expectations about the different characteristics of attractive and unattractive individuals are much stronger than the real differences between them.

Although it is a very important variable, finding someone physically attractive is of course often only the first stage in developing a close relationship with another person. If we find someone attractive, we may want to pursue the relationship. And if we are lucky, that person will also find us attractive and be interested in the possibility of developing a closer relationship. At this point, we will begin to communicate, sharing our values, beliefs, and interests, and begin to determine whether we are compatible in a way that le to increased liking.

Relationships are more likely to develop and be maintained to the extent that the partners share external, demographic characteristics, and internal ones like values and beliefs.

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Research across many cultures has found that people tend to like and associate with others who share their age, education, race, religion, level of intelligence, and socioeconomic status Watson et al. One classic study Newcomb, arranged for male undergraduates, all strangers, to live together in a house while they were going to school. The men whose attitudes were similar during the first week ended up being friends, whereas those who did not initially share attitudes were ificantly less likely to become friends. Similarity le to attraction for a variety of reasons. For one, similarity makes things easier.

You can imagine that if you only liked to go to action movies but your partner only liked to go to foreign films, this would create difficulties in choosing an evening activity. Things would be even more problematic if the dissimilarity involved something even more important, such as your attitudes toward the relationship itself.

These dissimilarities are going to create real problems. Romantic relationships in which the partners hold different religious and political orientations or different attitudes toward important issues such as premarital sex, marriage, and child rearing are of course not impossible—but they are more complicated and take more effort to maintain.

In addition to being easier, relationships with those who are similar to us are also reinforcing.

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Imagine you are going to a movie with your very best friend. The movie begins, and you realize that you are starting to like it a lot. At this point, you might look over at your friend and wonder how she is reacting to it. One of the great benefits of sharing beliefs and values with others is that those others tend to react the same way to events as you do.

Odds are that if you like the movie, your friend will too, and because he or she does, you can feel good about yourself and about your opinions of what makes a good movie. Sharing our values with others and having others share their values with us help us validate the worthiness of our self-concepts. Many people want to have friends and form relationships with people who have high status.

They prefer to be with people who are healthy, attractive, wealthy, fun, and friendly. But their ability to attract such high-status partners is limited by the principles of social exchange. It is no accident that attractive people are more able to get dates with other attractive people, for example.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and although it seems surprising to us when one partner appears much more attractive than the other, we may well assume that the less attractive partner is offering some type of perhaps less visible social status in return. There is still one other type of similarity that is important in determining whether a relationship will grow and continue, and it is also based on the principles of social exchange and equity.

The finding is rather simple—we tend to prefer people who seem to like us about as much as we like them. Imagine, for instance, that you have met someone and you are hoping to pursue a relationship with that person. You begin to give yourself to the relationship by opening up to the other person, telling him or her about yourself and making it clear that you would like to pursue a closer relationship. You make yourself available to spend time with the person and contact him or her regularly. You hope that he or she feels the same amount of liking, and that you will receive the same type of behaviors in return.

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If the person does not return the openness and giving, the relationship is not going to go very far. Relationships in which one person likes the other much more than the other likes him or her can be inherently unstable because they are not balanced or equitable.

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An unfortunate example of such an imbalanced relationship occurs when one individual continually attempts to contact and pursue a relationship with another person who is not interested in one. It is difficult for the suitor to give up the pursuit because he or she feels passionately in love with the other, and his or her self-esteem will be hurt if the other person is rejecting. Such situations are not uncommon and require that the individual who is being pursued make it completely clear that he or she is not interested in any further contact.

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There is a clear moral to the importance of liking similarity, and it pays to remember it in everyday life. If we act toward others in a positive way, this expresses liking and respect for them, and the others will likely return the compliment.

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Being liked, praised, and even flattered by others is rewarding, and unless it is too blatant and thus ingratiating, as we saw when we discussed self-presentation we can expect that others will enjoy it. In sum, similarity is probably the most important single determinant of liking.

And there is no question that such individual characteristics matter. But social psychologists realize that there are other aspects that are perhaps even more important. Consider this:.