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Rating Personality and Attractiveness

April 2010 - Recent research by Laura P. Naumann, University of California, Berkeley and others, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that volunteers were able to accurately judge aspects of a stranger's personality by looking at photographs. It proved possible to correctly assess factors such as self-esteem and ratings of extraversion and religiosity from physical appearance.

The researchers asked participants to assess the personalities of unknown individuals from two full-body photographs, one posed by researchers, the other by the subject. Their judgments were compared with those of the subjects and their acquaintances. The study found that both poses gave accurate cues about personality. However, the spontaneous version provided greater insight into factors such as the subject's agreeableness, emotional stability, openness, likeability, and loneliness.

The authors commented:

"As we predicted, physical appearance serves as a channel through which personality is manifested. By using full-body photographs and examining a broad range of traits, we identified domains of accuracy that have been overlooked, leading to the conclusion that physical appearance may play a more important role in personality judgment than previously thought."

Meanwhile, research from the University of Connecticut published in Sex Roles investigated the effects on women both as individuals and as a group to witnessing sexist behavior directed at another woman.

Researchers Stephenie Chaudoir and Diane Quinn asked 114 female students to watch a video and imagine themselves as bystanders to the incident portrayed. A man either made a sexist catcall ("Hey Kelly, your boobs look great in that shirt!") or greeted the woman in a neutral way ("Hey Kelly, what's up?"). Participants were then asked to rate their responses. The study found that they tended to think about themselves in terms of their gender group identity rather than as individuals, feel increased anger towards men in general, and be motivated to take direct action against them.

The researchers concluded:

"Women are obviously implicated because they suffer direct negative consequences as targets of prejudice and, as the current work demonstrates, indirect consequences as bystanders. But sexism also harms men as well. Whenever a single man's prejudiced actions are attributed to his gender identity, male perpetrators impact how women view and react to men more generally."

Choosing A Mate

Research published during 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explored cognitive processes underlying choice of a mate and found that beauty is still of paramount consideration for men while women are more discriminating, placing greater emphasis on the need for security and commitment.

Peter Todd, lead author and cognitive scientist at the University of Indiana explained:

"Evolutionary theories in psychology suggest that men and women should trade off different traits in each other, and when we look at the actual mate choices people make, this is what we find evidence for. Ancestral individuals who made their mate choices in this way - women trading off their attractiveness for higher quality men and men looking for any attractive women who will accept them - would have had an evolutionary advantage in greater numbers of successful offspring."

Focusing on a speed-dating event in Germany, researchers compared what people said they were looking for in a mate with whom they actually chose. They explain that this increasingly popular phenomenon enables participants to have "mini dates" lasting 3-5 minutes with up to 30 different people after which they record who they would like to see again. The study included 46 adults who completed self-assessment questionnaires beforehand, also identifying evolutionarily relevant characteristics of their ideal mate such as physical attractiveness, financial status and prospects, health and parenting qualities.

Researchers found that participants stated they wanted to find "someone who was like themselves" defining this as a socially acceptable answer. However, in practice men sought the more physically attractive women in the group whereas female participants gravitated towards men demonstrating affluence, their aspirations dependent on how they had assessed their own attractiveness. The average male participant wanted to see half of the women again, but female participants wanted to meet only one-third of the men.

While not surprised at this outcome, researchers found that speed-dating proved a useful forum, a "microcosm where mate choices are made sequentially in a faster and more formalized fashion than in daily life."

Peter Todd added:

"Speed dating lets us look at a large number of mate choice decisions collected in a short amount of time. It only captures the initial stage of the extended process involved in long-term mate choice. But that initial expression of interest is crucial for launching everything else."


Research by psychologists at McGill University published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2008 has identified gender differences in responses to flirtation. Researchers found that men tend to consider their current partners less favorably after meeting an attractive unattached woman whereas female partners are more likely to work on strengthening existing relationships. Men tend not to consider flirting with an attractive member of the opposite sex as threatening their relationship but can learn to resist temptation when trained to think of this as a possible outcome.

Researchers used virtual reality scenarios to analyse how 724 young heterosexual men and women in serious relationships reacted to the introduction of a third party. In one study involving 71 unsuspecting male participants, roughly half were introduced to an attractive flirtatious woman and the remainder to an "unavailable" woman who ignored them.

Participants then completed a questionnaire in which they were asked how they would react if their existing partner had done something irritating such as lying about the reason for canceling a date or revealing embarrassing information about them. Men who had met the flirtatious woman were 12 per cent less likely to forgive their partner compared to 17.5 per cent of 58 women put in a similar situation.

Lead author John E. Lydon, PhD commented:

"One interpretation of these studies is that men are unable to ward off temptation. We do not subscribe to this. Instead, we believe men simply interpret these interactions differently than women do. We think that if men believed an attractive, available woman was a threat to their relationship, they might try to protect that relationship."

In another study researchers tested whether 40 male participants could learn not to flirt if they formulated a plan or strategy in advance. Half were asked to visualize being approached by an attractive woman and to write down a strategy to protect their relationship. This group was more likely to distance themselves in subsequent virtual reality scenarios. Researchers found that women do not require similar training.

John E. Lydon said:

"Women have been socialized to be wary of the advances of attractive men. These findings show that even if a man is committed to his relationship, he may still need to formulate strategies to protect his relationship by avoiding that available, attractive woman. The success rate of such strategies may not be 100 per cent but it is likely to be significantly higher than if the man was not made aware of the specific consequences of his actions."

If you have a teen who you think may be suffering from an eating disorder, research the signs of bulimia and become better informed.

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