We all know that people tend to be attracted to other people who are, well, attractive. But we might have been wrong about what exactly they're responding to. It's not all about shiny hair, winning smile, and cut-glass cheekbones—actually, according to a study out of Monmouth University, personality can make a big difference in whether someone finds you aesthetically pleasing.
Groups of men and women who were asked to judge strangers' yearbook photos were more likely to rate subjects as physically attractive, a potential friend, and a potential date when the images were paired with positive personality traits.
In other words, personality plays a big role not only in interpersonal chemistry (how well you can hold a conversation in a bar or how well you respond to a date emotionally) but in actually altering how attractive someone thinks you are.
Here, study author Dr. Gary Lewandowski expounds on dating, attraction, and what this all means in the great Age of Tinder.
MC: What do you think your study should inform us about our dating profiles?
Dr. Lewandowski: Especially for women, I'd suggest that they emphasize traits that are not suggestive of physical features in any way. Since men tend to focus more on physical features, anything women can do to broaden men's impression formation to other areas would be smart. Also, whereas physical features tend to naturally diminish and become less attractive over time, personality does not, so it is in everyone's best interest to avoid having a potential partner's interest based primarily on appearance.
FYI: These were some of the most valued personality traits in potential marriage partners from a 1997 poll conducted in The Journal of Personality.
MC: Do you feel like the study is a good indication that we should give someone we're not 100 percent attracted to a second chance?
GL: When forming an initial impression of looks, it is 100 percent physical. But my study suggests that your assessment of physical attractiveness does change over time and that getting to know someone will move the needle, in good and bad ways.
Personality and your ability to relate to the other person is much more important for long-term relationship quality and stability. Really what we should do is weigh personality much more strongly and appearance much less. The best relationships are between romantic partners who are first and foremost best friends. Determining that level of compatibility takes time.
Other food for thought...
"Research suggests that what you say you want (e.g., someone who is smart and funny) may not translate into who you end up with (e.g., someone who is not smart or particularly funny, but is hot)," says Dr. Lewandowski.
So...is this the science of settling or just staying realistic? *sigh*