Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cupid's arrow: Light shed on laws of attraction

Date:
February 8, 2013
Source:
University of Notre Dame
Summary:
A sociologist's research offers new insights into why and when Cupid's arrow strikes.

Couple. The vast majority of couples select partners who are similar to themselves in both status and in attractiveness, according to the researcher.
Credit: © T.Tulic / Fotolia

We've heard the clichιs: "It was love at first sight," "It's inner beauty that truly matters," and "Opposites attract." But what's really at work in selecting a romantic or sexual partner?

University of Notre Dame Sociologist Elizabeth McClintock studies the impacts of physical attractiveness and age on mate selection and the effects of gender and income on relationships. Her research offers new insights into why and when Cupid's arrow strikes.

In one of her studies, "Handsome Wants as Handsome Does," published in Biodemography and Social Biology, McClintock examines the effects of physical attractiveness on young adults' sexual and romantic outcomes (number of partners, relationship status, timing of sexual intercourse), revealing the gender differences in preferences.

"Couple formation is often conceptualized as a competitive, two-sided matching process in which individuals implicitly trade their assets for those of a mate, trying to find the most desirable partner and most rewarding relationship that they can get given their own assets," McClintock says. "This market metaphor has primarily been applied to marriage markets and focused on the exchange of income or status for other desired resources such as physical attractiveness, but it is easily extended to explain partner selection in the young adult premarital dating market as well."

McClintock's study shows that just as good looks may be exchanged for status and financial resources, attractiveness may also be traded for control over the degree of commitment and progression of sexual activity.

Among her findings:

  • Very physically attractive women are more likely to form exclusive relationships than to form purely sexual relationships; they are also less likely to have sexual intercourse within the first week of meeting a partner. Presumably, this difference arises because more physically attractive women use their greater power in the partner market to control outcomes within their relationships.
  • For women, the number of sexual partners decreases with increasing physical attractiveness, whereas for men, the number of sexual partners increases with increasing physical attractiveness.
  • For women, the number of reported sexual partners is tied to weight: Thinner women report fewer partners. Thinness is a dimension of attractiveness for women, so is consistent with the finding that more attractive women report fewer sexual partners.

Another of McClintock's recent studies (not yet published), titled "Desirability, Matching, and the Illusion of Exchange in Partner Selection," tests and rejects the "trophy wife" stereotype that women trade beauty for men's status.

"Obviously, this happens sometimes," she says, pointing to Donald Trump and Melania Knauss-Trump as an example.

"But prior research has suggested that it often occurs in everyday partner selection among 'normal' people … noting that the woman's beauty and the man's status (education, income) are positively correlated, that is, they tend to increase and decrease together."

According to McClintock, prior research in this area has ignored two important factors:

"First, people with higher status are, on average, rated more physically attractive -- perhaps because they are less likely to be overweight and more likely to afford braces and nice clothes and trips to the dermatologist, etc.," she says.

"Secondly, the strongest force by far in partner selection is similarity -- in education, race, religion and physical attractiveness."

After taking these two factors into account, McClintock's research shows that there is not, in fact, a general tendency for women to trade beauty for money.

"Indeed, I find little evidence of exchange, but I find very strong evidence of matching," she says. "With some exceptions, the vast majority of couples select partners who are similar to themselves in both status and in attractiveness."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Notre Dame. The original article was written by Susan Guibert. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Elizabeth Aura McClintock. Handsome Wants as Handsome Does: Physical Attractiveness and Gender Differences in Revealed Sexual Preferences. Biodemography and Social Biology, 2011; 57 (2): 221 DOI: 10.1080/19485565.2011.615172

Cite This Page:

University of Notre Dame. "Cupid's arrow: Light shed on laws of attraction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130208182827.htm>.
University of Notre Dame. (2013, February 8). Cupid's arrow: Light shed on laws of attraction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130208182827.htm
University of Notre Dame. "Cupid's arrow: Light shed on laws of attraction." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130208182827.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) — An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins