'Attractive Women Want it All?'

In this month's Evolutionary Psychology, an article titled 'Attractive Women Want it All: Good Genes, Economic Investment, Parenting Proclivities and Emotional Commitment' out of The University of Texas at Austin, reports women ideally want partners who have all the characteristics they desire, but preferences can be influenced by their own attractiveness.

"When reviewing the qualities they desire in romantic partners, women gauge what they can get based on what they got," Buss said. "And women who are considered physically attractive maintain high standards for prospective partners across a variety of characteristics."

i-d14ee15a738bd59e28bdc06ed25a1228-PlanetoftheApesKiss.jpgBut uh... don't attractive characteristics vary tremendously depending on where on the globe you live, when in time you're considering, who's making the judgment, and a myriad of other factors? Seems to me, desirability is in the eye of the beholder--and I suggest we leave it there.

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Maybe it's that the women putting effort into making themselves attractive to society's standard are also the women pushing to acheive more in general which plays into mate selection.

My two cents.

Being an attractive woman yourself, how about your selection Sheril?

But uh... don't attractive characteristics vary tremendously depending on where on the globe you live, when in time you're considering, who's making the judgment, and a myriad of other factors?

Sure, but what difference does that make with respect to the finding reported, which is that "women ideally want partners who have all the characteristics they desire, but preferences can be influenced by their own attractiveness"? Granted, this conclusion needs to be tested in other cultures, but proving or refuting it will have nothing to do with what constitutes "attractiveness" in other cultures where the hypothesis is tested. Also worth noting that the first part of the hypothesis is nearly tautological ("Women want partners who have all the characteristics they desire"--unlike men, who want partners who don't have all the characteristics they desire?); it's the second part that's interesting.

kishin said:

"what difference does that make with respect to the finding reported, which is that "women ideally want partners who have all the characteristics they desire, but preferences can be influenced by their own attractiveness"?"

I think Sheril is pointing out the larger problems with these kind of generalizations. To me, after reading the study, I cannot imagine how such a judgment is not subject to strong observer bias. Good headline for media attention, with little substance beyond the title in my opinion.

No, kishin is right: there is no incompatibility between more attractive women setting higher standards than less attractive women, and attractiveness standards varying somewhat in time or space.

Let's be explicit, though: "more attractive" means that there's at least a local set of standards, and people compare themselves to others based on these standards while they're growing up, so that they have a rough feel of where they rank in the local attractiveness pecking order.

You can use this to your advantage:
http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2006/04/never-make-pretty-woman-your-wife…

Go to a place where the attractiveness standards are basically identical to your own (not hard since they don't vary wildly), but where females (or males) score higher on average than where you're from. That way, someone who you perceive as an 8 will perceive themselves as a 6 or 7, and thus respond more favorably to you liking them than her counterpart would where you're from.

Spain was the example I gave, though I hear similar things about other countries with good-looking females.

If you're less adventurous and want to stay put, then find a group that's pretty isolated and good-looking. Any time I hang out with ballet dancers, they always complain about how fat and ugly they are, since they are surrounded by pretty and toned females all day. They're very humble about their good looks, which is rare.

I assume Carl is attributing observer bias to the researcher doing the study with respect to how that researcher determines which women qualify as more or less attractive. Could be a problem, but without seeing how the study assesses attractiveness, we don't know. And maybe we should know. I certainly hope the researcher isn't simply deciding "She's a babe, I'll ask her." Agnostic suggests the existence of local standards of attractiveness, and while I don't know how such standards are consistently applied in the context of research such as this, I assume researchers carrying out this kind of work have techniques for doing so.

re: beauty. i think you can think of it as a trait which can be decomposed into a few culture-invariant indedependent dimensions. e.g., padaeomorphy (for women), exaggerated secondary sexual characteristics and symmetry. then there are other dimensions which are culture variant (e.g., optimum weight, hair color, etc.). i think the latter are often malleable, think foot binding in 19th century china, so the distribution (variantion) of attractiveness within a population might still be determined by the more "innate" culture-invariant factors....

Disclosing absolutely no scientific basis for writing this...

I expect choice of partner may have much to do with a woman's (or man's) self confidence--which in turn, should be correlated to the feedback she or he receives from society.

From a biological perspective, ultimately our goal is to reproduce and women should be selective given pregnancy, limited eggs, etc. Thus, some women seek to maximize our attractiveness based on culturally celebrated characteristics. Ascribing to standards of beauty (make-up, hairstyle, even surgery) may be of benefit and afford optimal opportunity to select for the best possible mate. A woman who receives positive feedback from those she encounters may have achieved some cultural ideal boosting her confidence. Believing in oneself is usually attractive to the opposite sex, and that self-confidence may make her feel worthy of the most desirable male available.

the paper is here:
http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP06134146.pdf

check the r's, a little low for my taste.

Thus, some women seek to maximize our attractiveness based on culturally celebrated characteristics.

right, but where do these standards come from? some of them might be cultural noise; e.g., perhaps foot-binding, which was mostly just a fad inspired by upper class men who could afford to keep their women-folk crippled? a bizarre porn genre emerged in china having to do with foot-binding (men drinking out of their shoes, or slowly unbinding feet). on the other hand, there are obviously functional biases toward accentuating innate preferences. e.g., most make up doesn't look you older or duller, does it? (make up in african groups where males get glittery is also attention getting) i don't know of a culture where women wear beards to make themselves look like men because that's considered sexy; OTOH, many cultures have a wig-culture which reflects preferred ideals of what female hair should be line (e.g., black american culture where the hair is straight, older women who might want non-gray hair).

A woman who receives positive feedback from those she encounters may have achieved some cultural ideal boosting her confidence.

in behavior genetics this would be gene-environment correlation. it amplifies in absolute terms small relative differences. i'm not assman so i don't know all about make up, but would people say that american make up reduces the variation in looks, or simply amplifies it because the naturally beautiful can make better use of it?

don't attractive characteristics vary tremendously depending on where on the globe you live

Yes and no. Judith Langlois' facial attractiveness studies has shown that across cultures, people (including children) have a preference for faces that are symmetrical and are close to the averaged (not the same as average) face of persons from a particular culture (e.g., geographic region).

when in time you're considering, who's making the judgment

Related to the study presented here, another one published in Psychological Science (Bressan & Stranieri, 2008) showed that attached women rated attached men's faces as more attractive than single men when they were not ovulating; but rated the faces of single, masculine-looking men as more attractive when they were ovulating. They predicted these results based on the hypothesis that men of higher genetic quality tend not to be as good long-term partners (i.e., have monogamous, pair-bonding qualities) as men of lower genetic quality. So if interested in a long-term relationship, women will tend to choose men of lower genetic quality. If interested in reproducing, women will choose men of higher (biological) genetic quality. If we take this study and combine it with the one presented here, it might suggest that there's a lot of very attractive older single people adopting kids.

and a myriad of other factors?

Buss has shown that across 37 cultures, both sexes rated kindness, intelligence, emotional stability, health, and personality as more important than financial resources or good looks.

Reference

Bressan, P., & Stranieri, D. (2008). The best men are (not always) already taken: Female preference for single versus attached males depends on conception risk. Psychological Science, 19, 145-151.

By Tony Jeremiah (not verified) on 21 Mar 2008 #permalink

Skin make-up definitely reduces variation by making less fortunate skin look softer, tighter, less blemished, etc. Those with fortunate skin can't make it look any more flawless, so the range gets narrowed.

Rouge / cheek make-up doesn't do anything.

Lip make-up... if it's a liner that increases the apparent size of the lips, then it increases the average without affecting variance. If it's lip gloss or chapstick that make dried out lips look more kissable, then again increases the average without affecting variance.

Does natural level of lip dryness even vary among individuals within a climate zone? This seems more environmental, like how without shoes everyone would get muddy feet in a muddy environment, and everyone would have to clean it off.

Eye make-up is a tough call -- it definitely increases everyone's score, so the average goes up, but I don't have a good feel for what it does to variance. It's not like skin make-up, where the elite hit a ceiling: even girls with large dreamy eyes benefit from good eye make-up. So my hunch is that it doesn't affect variance, or only very slightly.

Dude this Friday is so freaking boring, I can't wait to go out tomorrow night!

Ahhhh...lookism, "the only-ism".

Good topic. I was wondering when that would finally show up on sciblogs. I am relieved, after all of the PC crap about historical ethnicity,racism, sexism, semitism, etc....

And curious how no researcher noted that *how a woman thinks AND feels about herself* in context to social norms or stereotypical images of beauty influences her more than anything?

By the real cmf (not verified) on 30 Mar 2008 #permalink

Ahhhh...lookism, "the only-ism".

Good topic. I was wondering when that would finally show up on sciblogs. I am relieved, after all of the PC crap about historical ethnicity,racism, sexism, semitism, etc....

And curious how no researcher noted that *how a woman thinks AND feels about herself* in context to social norms or stereotypical images of beauty influences her more than anything?

By the real cmf (not verified) on 30 Mar 2008 #permalink