Based on the Prejudice lectures, lets assume most people have implicit biases (for example being implicitly biased against someone of a certain race, age, religion, sexu

Attraction – Similarity, complementarity, & opposites

Which old saying turns out to be true, “Birds of a feather flock together” or “Opposites attract”

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The research has pointed to birds of a feather being the clear winner

In any relationship ranging from acquaintance to lover, opposites are unlikely to stay connected in the long run

Typically, but not always, our friends are similar in age, race, education level, political leaning, economic status, etc.

Note this is kind of a bad thing too, as it can lead us to assume everyone shares the opinions of your social group

How often do you see people unfriend others on Facebook over political disagreements?

Attraction – Similarity, complementarity, & opposites


We tend to like friends who do the same activities that we do

Some researchers have even suggested that when a romantic couple gets into a relationship, if their levels of physical attractiveness aren’t quite similar, they will be more likely to break up

Have couples who are in different physical leagues stuck out to you as unusual?

Attraction – Similarity, complementarity, & opposites

Indeed, matching

hypothesis has been

supported, couples

are more likely to break

up if there’s a difference

in physical attractiveness

(even serious couples)

Attractiveness & Attraction

Speaking of physical attractiveness, most of us would say ‘we know it when we see it,’ but how do researchers define and measure it?

For starters, which of these 3 faces is the most attractive?

Attractiveness & Attraction

I chose the middle one. According to research findings, most people would choose either the middle or the right photo

The left photo is the original

Attractiveness & Attraction

Facial symmetry

Symmetrical faces are almost always rated as more attractive

The more symmetrical, the better

The implication is that facial symmetry implies genetic fitness. Asymmetry is a sign of genetic imperfections

To demonstrate that genetics are the explanation behind this, researchers (Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999) took the t-shirts that men slept in and asked women to smell and rate their scent

Some of the men had clear genetic asymmetry, length of pinky fingers or ear lobes

Women preferred the smell of men with genetic symmetry

They especially preferred the symmetric men’s scent when

at the point in their period when reproduction was ideal

Attractiveness & Attraction

Facial symmetry continued

More research has used computer software to merge/combine faces

For example, people rate the attractiveness of two faces, and then the faces are combined, and they rate the composite of the previous two faces

People mostly like composite faces better

In fact, the more faces that one combines, the more people liked it

E.g. a 16-face facial composite is preferred over a 4-face composite

Symmetrical, or ‘averaged,’ faces are preferred

Consider how saying someone looks inbred is the opposite

Lack of genetic diversity causes issues and is unappealing

Attractiveness & Attraction

Alright, we’ve covered faces, what about bodies?

Attractiveness & Attraction

Studies by Singh (1993) measured male ratings of silhouettes of woman’s bodies

He manipulated the size of the waist (belly fat) and the size of the hips

He find found that a low waist to hip ration, like .7, was preferred. This matches the standard hourglass shape people talk about

A small effect was found for women preferring men with a .9 waist to hip ratio

Subsequent research found the male shoulder to waist ratio was much more important, e.g. a V-shape

Attractiveness & Attraction

Alright, but how does physical attractiveness stack up to other aspects of attractiveness (having things in common, warmth, career success, etc.)

It can be summed up by one of my favorite quotes from your textbook authors:

“The fancy theories about matchmaking and similarity and reciprocity couldn’t shine through the overwhelming preference for the best-looking partners”

Attractiveness & Attraction

Attractiveness predicts date satisfaction more than any other dimension

Relates back to the Halo Effect, which can also be called ‘what is beautiful is good effect’

People (presumably) have other good traits if they’re attractive

Attractiveness & Attraction

Hortacsu and Ariely (2006) found that women stated a preference for taller men

But that preference could be offset if the man made enough money

E.g. for a 5 foot 8 inch guy, he could get as many dates as a taller guy if he made roughly 150k more

E.g. a 5 foot 2 guy could keep up with taller guys if he made 277k more than them

However, other research has shown that while women state a preference for taller guys, they don’t find them more attractive once having met them (Sheppard & Strathman, 1989)

Similarly, short men don’t report having less dates than tall men

Attractiveness & Attraction

Beyond considering romantic or sexual partners, being good looking confers other benefits. Good looking people are more likely to:

Do better in job interviews

Receive more help from strangers during emergencies

Be more popular among their peers

This even applies to young children

Teachers like attractive kids better as well

Finally, even 3-month-old babies show a preference for staring longer at attractive faces

Attractiveness & Attraction

According to principles of behaviorism:

We like people and romantic partners when they praise or compliment us (feels good, so we have positive associations with them)

We also like people who do us favors. This can take the form of help, gifts, cooking food, etc.

The exception in both of those cases is when the favors or compliments are seen as manipulative

Attractiveness & Attraction

As we discussed in the social influence chapter, reciprocity has compelling effects

As such, when someone likes us, we are inclined to like them by default

One exception is when we don’t like someone back and don’t want to spend time with them

Can cause us to feel guilty and/or turn them away

Attractiveness & Attraction

Nonverbal reciprocity

Lakin & Chartrand (2005) found that participants liked confederates better who mimicked their behavior (giggling, putting one’s hand on one’s face, etc.) than those confederates who didn’t mimic

Try it out in your life! Just don’t make it too obvious ;p

Attractiveness & Attraction

A few final points about attraction

The ‘mere exposure effect’ (Ch. 7) applies to liking people too

Also called the propinquity effect, we like people that we encounter regularly

Makes us feel like our environment is stable and predictable

But like the mere exposure effect, if our initial response is dislike, disliking gets worse

Social allergy effect: a partner’s annoying habits get more annoying over time


Rejection is a broad term, referring to being turned down for a date, being dumped, being fired, being kicked off of a team, not invited to an event with your usual friends, etc.

Ostracism is another word for it, being excluded, rejected, or ignored by others

Why does rejection occur?

What causes rejection

Reasons differ by context

Among children, other kids are rejected if they’re:

1. Aggressive

physically or verbally

2. Withdrawn

Often just by him/herself

3. Different/deviant

Just unlike peers in some way

What causes rejection

Among adults

Typically deviance

Just being too different from people around you

Shame on some level, because that stifles uniqueness

Bad apple

Making others of your group look bad

What causes rejection

Romantic Rejection

When turning people down, people often cite external reasons (too busy, not looking for a relationship, etc.)

But the reason is almost always internal (not attracted to person, don’t like them, etc.)

Those external answers are polite, but can lead to confusion

Rejected people can become a stalkers

There has also been a trend lately of men rejected by women to become violent and go on a shooting spree as a result

Psychological effects of rejection

The effects of rejection are uniformly bad




Suicidal thoughts

Life seeming pointless

Risky sexual behavior

People can develop rejection sensitivity

Reluctance to open up to new people for fear of being hurt

Psychological effects of rejection

Similar to shocking physical pain, sometimes the psychological response to an important rejection is numbness

The mental distress, anxiety, and sadness come later

Rejection makes people temporarily stupid, in terms of cognitive performance

Rejection also suppresses people’s ability to self-regulate or control their behavior

More likely to binge eat sweets

Behavioral effects of rejection

Less generous, cooperative, and helpful

More impulsive and destructive

Higher levels of aggression

Before shootings in the U.S. became so frequent, the narrative was that school shooters were often rejected outcasts

There may be some truth to that narrative, but it’s not always the case and it certainly doesn’t excuse shooting people


When we discuss lonely people, we mean chronically lonely, not temporarily because someone moved to a new city

Comparing lonely to non-lonely people defies a lot of the stereotypes about lonely people

There are no appreciable differences in attractiveness, intelligence, or general social skills between lonely and non-lonely people

But, lonely people do seem to do a bad job of detecting the emotional states of people they interact with

This may lead to friction in social relationships

Lonely people interact with others as often as non-lonely (quantity), but the interaction quality is poorer



Someone who is often lonely should get a pet! They help a lot

Improve at monitoring emotional states

Continuing to attempt to form meaningful bonds with people

Live closer to family

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