Research Reveals There is Much More to Attraction Than Good Looks
"What do you see in him?" If you have ever been asked that question about your selection of a dating partner, you are in good company. Why do we hear that so often? Because we are attracted to others through much more than what we see with our eyes. Research reveals that beauty may be skin deep, but attraction is much deeper — and much more durable.
Romantic feelings are generated by far more than superficial appeal. Personal appearance is important, but so is what lies beneath.
Beauty is Skin Deep, Attraction Runs Deeper
As put simply by researchers Viren Swami and Adrian Furnham in "The Psychology of Physical Attraction," people equate good looking with good. Research consistently demonstrates the predisposition to view good-looking people in a more positive light than less-attractive counterparts.
This "halo effect" causes people to assume that physically attractive individuals possess a host of positive qualities in other areas, ranging from trustworthiness, to intelligence, to honesty. Unfortunately, our stereotypical beliefs about beautiful people are often wildly inaccurate. But there is good news. Thankfully, we do not need to rely on the halo effect in judging prospective partners, because research indicates there is much more to attraction than what meets the eye.
Live, Love, Laugh: The Attraction of Humor
A good sense of humor may be good for dating prospects, because funny people are apparently more attractive. Elizabeth McGee and Mark Shevlin, in a 2009 study, "Effect of Humor on Interpersonal Attraction and Mate Selection," found that people with a good sense of humor were rated as more attractive, and viewed as more suitable long-term partners compared to more serious counterparts.
They focused on exploring suitability for a long-term relationship because research indicates humor may be more important in sustaining long-term versus short-term relationships. Their study confirmed prior research, which found that both genders prefer a romantic partner with a good sense of humor.
Tell Me a Story: The Seduction of Storytelling
We have all been to social engagements where we observed someone who had captured the attention of a crowd through a dramatic recitation of a story. Apparently, this ability is both captivating and attractive. And it´s attractiveness is enduring. For men, storytelling can enhance their perceived allure as a long-term romantic partner. John K. Donahue and Melanie C. Green, in the aptly titled "A Good Story," 2016, tied women’s assessments of a man´s perceived attractiveness as a long-term dating partner to his ability to tell a good story.
This affect was explained in part by the fact that for men, good storytelling apparently led to a perception of enhanced status. They noted that interestingly, the attraction of good storytelling did not occur when the genders were reversed — storytelling ability did not affect men´s assessment of women as attractive long-term dating partners. They also found that storytelling ability also did not impact attractiveness assessments of short-term dating partners.
Extraversion Through Imitation
We all know individuals who seem to be the life of the party. We enjoy their company and like to have them around because they spice things up. But we also apparently find them attractive through the way they bond with us. Research by Korrina A. Duffy and Tanya L. Chartrand, "The Extravert Advantage," from 2015, ties the popularity of extraverts to their ability to build rapport through mimicry — yet only when they are motivated to affiliate.
This is a significant finding indicating that even extraverts require motivation to turn on the charm. It is also an example of how in addition to improving outer appearance, inner qualities may be cultivated and refined, and are often more important when it comes to long-term attraction.
Attraction is More Than Skin Deep
Thankfully, research indicates that unlike superficial beauty, attraction is more than skin deep. Recognizing the value of personality traits and personal disposition on attraction and relational success will increase your chances of selecting a partner that is an appropriate match for a healthy relationship. It is, after all, "what you see in them."
A version of this article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 3,00 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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