Walster's 1966 Computer Dance doesn't provide much ground for the matching hypothesis, but it is somewhat flawed. The experiment is unrealistic in terms of the partners not getting to know each other very well; in reality, we would base our impression of someone on more than just a night. In 1969, Walster & Walster decided to run a similar experiment, this time letting partners meet each other before the dance. This more true-to-life experiment in fact supported the matching hypothesis.
So it is important?
Physical factors obviously play a role in our attraction, but are they the most important factor? Evolution and the survival of the fittest suggest that we should be attracted to the healthiest-looking person we can find in order to have healthy children. Therefore, physical factors such as broad shoulders (for men) should play a role in attraction. Attachment theory proposed that babies' eyes are larger to give a cute appearance that will appeal to adults and attract attention from the mother or caregiver. If we apply this principle to adults, women tend to have larger eyes that are more spread, with smaller facial features like chin. In contrast, we tend to regard men with smaller eyes and more prominent nose as more attractive.
Research (and the fact that even the most ugly of us often marry!) would seem to suggest that other factors are involved in attraction besides looks. These include:
- Wealth & Power - elements often seen as attractive when marrying somebody.
- Culture - in less prosperous countries such as China, a person's physical attractiveness differs to another who lives in a better-off country such as the US. In China, weight is a sign of prosperity (the ability to afford food) and is therefore seen as a positive factor. In contrast, the media influence of supermodels in the West help higher rates of anorexia nervosa and the attractiveness of a slim figure.
- Social Status - we often marry and date people of a similar social class to us, and relationship trends vary between classes. For example, divorce rates are Haskey (1987) found that divorce rates are as much as 4 times higher amonth lower classes than middle classes. But how much can we blame this on the financial instability of the less wealthy, as opposed to real differences in marriage between classes?
The Halo Effect
Physical attraction, for all its superficiality, would seem to rule our minds. Brigham described the Halo Effect, which results in us overestimating a person based simply on their looks. An attractive person, therefore, is viewed as friendly and outgoing as a result.