Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Are we attracted to those who resemble ourselves?

Physical appearance aspect in Similarity Theory of Attraction

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Such a Cute Couple!

How many times have you heard someone say “don’t they look good together” or “they make such a cute couple?” Have you ever wondered what causes someone to say; “they’re just not my type?” Statements such as these have begun to question the process of mate selection.

Does a method behind mate selection truly exist, or is there simply no reasoning behind what we find to be physically attractive? Over the last few decades, this question has become the focal point of many different studies. Everyone holds a unique perception as to what is attractive or unattractive.

Dion (1973) found that children as young as three had the ability to exhibit stereotyping based on the facial attractiveness of their peers. That is to say that even preschoolers have the ability to distinguish what they find attractive and unattractive. When evaluating the physical attractiveness of an individual, there are many different characteristics that one considers. Studies have looked at the effects of a variety of physical and non-physical stimuli on perceived physical attractiveness.

These studies have investigated an array of stimuli that range from the relationship between male facial symmetry and their perceived skin condition, to the correlation between the attractiveness of a women’s first name and her perceived physical attractiveness.

Tall people are more likely to marry tall partners than short ones, and attractive people are more likely to marry attractive partners than unattractive ones.

The notion of "birds of a feather flock together" points out that similarity is a crucial determinant of interpersonal attraction. Studies about attraction indicate that people are strongly attracted to look-alikes in physical and social appearance ("like attracts like"). This similarity is in the broad sense of bone-structure, characteristics, life goals, ethnicity, and appearance. Research has found that the more these points match, the happier people are in a relationship. However, similarity within a couple is not the only factor that predicts happiness.

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Physical Attractiveness

"Beauty is only skin deep." However, at the initial stages of the relationship, it is more than that. Many studies have led to the idea that physical attractiveness draws people to one another. Although most psychologists agree that physical appearance affects the level of attraction between two people, they are in disagreement with deciding why this is such. Some suggest that people are attracted to a "better-looking" person because being associated with "beautiful" people enhances our social standing and self-esteem. Others suggest that men are attracted to women for biological reasons. That is, men seek women who are physically attractive because those physical qualities seem to be associated with youth and fertility. Regardless of the justifications, it is apparent that physical attractiveness plays a significant role in attraction between people.

But, physical attractiveness is not an absolute value. While the TV models set certain standards for millions of viewers Worldwide, the beauty standards differ by the region, country, nationalities, and religious beliefs.

One of the recent studies found overwhelming support of the "matching principle". Physically attractive dates were preferred by everyone, though people of less attractiveness tended to choose less attractive dates than highly attractive individuals.

Another study confirmed the hypotheses that people make unconscious dating choices partly based on the probability of rejection. Men asked to choose between different women, chose the most physically attractive girl from the pool more often, when assured they would not be rejected. Men, who rated themselves as highly attractive, perceived their chances greater than less attractive men.

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More Studies

The matching hypothesis proposed by sociologist Erving Goffman suggests that people are more likely to form long standing relationships with those who are equally matched in social attributes, like physical attractiveness, as they are.

The study by researchers Walster and Walster supported the matching hypothesis by showing that partners who were similar in terms of physical attractiveness expressed the most liking for each other. Another study also found evidence that supported the matching hypothesis: photos of dating and engaged couples were rated in terms of attractiveness, and a definite tendency was found for couples of similar attractiveness to date or engage.

Several studies support this evidence of similar facial attractiveness. Penton-Voak, Perrett, and Peirce (1999) found that subjects rated the pictures with their own face morphed into it as more attractive. DeBruine (2002) demonstrated in her research how subjects entrusted more money to their opponents in a game play, when the opponents were presented as similar to them. Little, Burt, & Perrett (2006) examined similarity in sight for married couples and found that the couples were assessed at the same age and level of attractiveness.

A study conducted by Hinsz (1989) supported the repeated mere exposure hypothesis and investigated the theory that ‘people tend to marry people who look like themselves.’ This is the idea that repeated exposure to their own face as well as the faces of those direct family members who are genetically similar to themselves has a significant effect on an  individual’s attraction to faces that posses similar characteristics as their own.

In his study, Hinsz had a group of judges rate the facial resemblance between pictures they were given of engaged and married couples. Half of the pictures the subjects were given were pictures of people with their actual partner while the other half were pictures of people randomly paired with another individual. He found that a significant effect existed between the actual couples, thus supporting the idea that facial resemblance among couples does occur. This holds that individuals will view those who are genetically unrelated but have similar facial features as themselves as more attractive.

At this point, we should note that the pictures in Hinsz’s study were of actual couples that had been together for a long period of time. Does the same effect hold for people who have never met? Probably, positive…

A speed-dating experiment done on graduate students from Columbia University showed that although physical attractiveness is preferred in a potential partner, men show a greater preference for it than women,  but other studies show otherwise.

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Find Your Face Mate

Based on the significant amount of the research, confirming physical similarity as significant positive predictor of the possible attraction between two individuals, there is a free online dating community Find Your Face Mate (FYFM), putting physical similarity as the cornerstone of the partner selection.

Twenty years ago, FYFM's Founder, Christina Bloom fell in love. People frequently told Ms. Bloom and her boyfriend how much they resembled one another. She was fascinated and wanted to understand more. She started studying couples and noted a similar phenomenon with others. It became clear that those with powerful chemistry were almost always facial feature matches. She noticed that it is sometimes hard to discern due to hairstyle or color of skin or weight, but if the focus is made on the facial features, the strong similarity coincides with strong passion. When we fall in love (or meet our facial feature match) the neurological response in the brain triggers a release of endorphins and other mood enhancing chemicals that puts being in love in a category all on its own. A relationship without chemistry can be a time bomb waiting to happen. Ms. Bloom's hypothesis was confirmed by years of relevant scientific data, which buttresses her belief in facial feature matching. What was a fascination for over fifteen years has recently become a vocation. A private interest turned into a business that would help singles meet potential partners when she launched Find Your FaceMate in March of 2011.

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