Physical Attractiveness and Mate Selection Sample Paper

People responses towards others, especially in romantic relationships, are determined largely by people’s rating of the others in terms of physical attractiveness. In such contexts, the kind of treatment people gets from others appears based on their level of objective physical attractiveness. In addition, physical attractiveness ratings differ based on the gender of the observer. Males rate physical attractiveness differently from females. This paper seeks to explore the position of physical attractiveness in different social settings, and the efforts people take to achieve the ideal characters that define physical attractiveness.

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Viewpoints concerning a person’s attractiveness are crucial predictors of a range of his or her social profile, such as marriage, and labor market accomplishments. In this regard, social scientists have sought to gain knowledge on that physical traits play in shaping views and perceptions on what constitutes physical attractiveness (see Conley & McCabe, 2011). Most of the focus has been opn the role of such indicators of physical attractiveness in mate selection and biases- based on ratings of physical attractiveness.

Typical Indicators of Physical Attractiveness

Specific traits have been deemed attractive from different gender standpoints. Over time, people have established inherent criteria for rating a person’s physical attractiveness, which are gender-based. The following paragraphs will discuss some of these traits in relation to a distinct gender as pertaining to ranking of physical attractiveness.

Male Body Build      

The most prominent trait in rating physical attractiveness of a male person is the body build. Men have a more prominent musculature development of the upper body, exemplified by larger biceps and broader shoulders relative to women. Several studies that employed artificial silhouettes as stimuli showed that women ranked moderately built trunk as the most attractive, while they do not perceive very powerful, “Mr Universe-linked physiques”, as attractive (e.g. Barber, 1995). This situation can be explained in terms of the implications of the body build. The population model for muscularity designates optimal fitness because the advantages of muscular strength in respect of rivalry with other males are a drawback, as muscular tissues imply heavy metabolic expenditure (Barber, 1995; Conley & McCabe, 2011).

On the other hand, height is perceived as an indicator of physical attractiveness for both sexes, although its significance is more emphasized in males. Height in males is believed to confer a mild sexual dimorphism in human, which is taken to capture a history of selection forces related to intense competition over mates by males (Barber, 1995). This perspective is supported by the tendency of men to be more pologynous in their behavior and mentality relative to women, even though most of the mating patterns are monogamous. People perceive tall men as being higher in social status, and it is proven that height confers occupational advantage, as tall men tend to attain favorable status in organizations and earn a lot. Because of this connection, tallness is viewed as an aspect of physical attractiveness (Barber, 1995; Conley & McCabe, 2011). Consequently, height determines the success of men in dating arena. Female mates tend to link height with economic and reproductive success as tall men create the impression of potential protection from external threats, and therefore, assurance of survival of offspring. It is no doubt then that women perceive tall men as more desirable dates, and height endowment gives them confidence to engage in frequent dates compared to their shorter counterparts. According to Jackson (1992) (cited in Barber, 1995), a considerably large proportion of women who place ads in the lonely hearts website specify that they want a man who is not shorter than six feet. The findings of the study by Barber (1995) indicate that epigamic characteristics of male stature including height, width, shoulder, and the masculature of the torso appeal to women sexually and intimidate fellow male persons.

Female’s Hourglass Shape

Humans have diverse structure and build determined by their unique genetic make-up. Various body shapes are judged differently in terms of physical appeal to others. The criterion that is commonly used to judge physical attractiveness in females is the “hourglass” figure (Conley & McCabe, 2011). The males value an hourglass figure as the preferred female body structure. In the latter regard, enlarged breasts, buttocks, hips, and slender waist appeal to males in selection. Consequently, females with such body structures appeal more to men.

On the other hand, the levels of curvaceousness deemed as ideal continues to evolve over time. According to the magazines Vogue and Ladies (cited in Barber, 1995), the amount of curvaceousness viewed as ideal by females is inversely related to their economic opportunities as evidenced by the count of women seeking employment. This situation points to the tendency of women to emphasize their feminine structure when economic opportunities are low. Two perspectives account for this intent: First, entry into the male-dominated arena of work may require a suppression of the typical feminine characteristics in order to match their male rivals. Secondly, marriage may be approached as an economic tact, which may be promoted by emphasis on secondary traits (Barber, 1995).

Similarly, the structure of fat distribution linked with a low waist-hip ration shows greater fitness, especially in women (Conley & McCabe, 2011). Waist-hip ratio is rather a precise pointer of reproductive potential. Therefore, women with low waist-hip ratio often appeal to men as it predicts reproductive success.

Judgments on Physical Attractiveness

Physical attractiveness confers many advantages to those judged as attractive. The way an individual looks determines his/her position in social setting. Individuals judged to be physically appealing generate more favorable impressions on others compared to individuals with more dismall appearance. Strangers often suppose that attractive individuals have favourable personalities, are more friendly, and are designed to be more successful parents, and preferred employees compared to those who are deemed unattaractive (Eagly, Ashmore, Makhijan, & Longe, 1991, cited in Marcus & Miller, 2003, p. 325). Since such individuals are desired as romantic partners, men and women characteristically wish to have as mates individual with the most attractive physcial traits they can win (Marcus et al., 2003).

Perhaps the biolgical differences between male and female influence the criteria for judging physical attractiveness of people. In this vein, a number of evolutionary theories proposes that physical attractiveness is more valued in women than in men. This offers an explanation for the engagement of women in more photographic self-enhancement intitiatives, compared to men. In addition, men tend to be more critical evaluators of physical attractiveness compared to women. Nonetheless, there is no sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that lesss attractive women engage in increased enhancement of their looks than their male counterparts (Toma & Hancock, 2010, p. 345-346).

Role of Physical Attractiveness in Mate Selection

            The role of physical attractiveness is particularly emphasized in mate selection. Mate choice espouses two connected adaptive challenges, including the way to highlight one’s endowments as mate with relevance to structure, and the way to examine the mate worth of people of the opposite sex in relation to their physical appearance. Nevertheless, men and women vary in terms of the weight with which they consider a range of mate selection criteria. Whereas both sexes recognize the key role of personality attributes, including intelligence, a sense of humor, and kindness, a research of dating behavior of student in college indicated that dating appeal for males and females was autonomous of personality characteristics and was strongly determined by physical attractiveness (Toma & Hancock, 2010).

            Therefore, the perception of physical attractiveness determines people’s decision-making in relation to intent towards others. A study conducted by Little, Burriss, Jones, DeBruine, and Caldwell (2008) highlighted that men and women are impacted more by their attractiveness choices by the attractiveness of a partner, for long-term choices rather than short-term choices. Little and colleagues proposed that observers adjust their preferences for particular individuals by applying information regarding the attractiveness of the other’s partner. This situation reinforces a proposition that people use information on choices of others in shaping their own decisions (Little et al., 2008).

Mate-choice imitation is thought to be adaptive when a cost is involved in evaluating the worth of prospective mates or when segregating between the value of prospect mate is hard (Little et al., 2008). Thus, social transmission facilitates people to examine a potential mate promptly and efficiently, and informs people on the elements to seek for in a mate. In humans, various aspects constitute the worth of a partner beside their physical characteristics. In fact, other’s judgments may be useful in infering positive or negative attributes, including behavior, resourcefullness, or intelligence, that cannot be captured accurately by physical appearance only (Little et al., 2008).

Influence of Objective Physical Attractiveness on Mate Selection

         The role of physical attractiveness is especially, underscored in the arena of mate selection. The existing conflict in the attraction literature confounds many (see Little et al., 2008). Even if people incline to mate with others of the same degree of physical attractiveness, the plethora of relationship partners, including unattractive partners, rank their partners as attractive or extremely attractive (Montoya, 2008). As Montoya (2008) has observed, not all of partners in relationship could be physically attractive in reality. This condition begs the question; how do unattractive people wind up mating with equally unattractive partners, but whom they perceive as attractive?

The tendency for people to choose mates who match their physical attractiveness has been the theme of many studies (Montoya, 2008; Little et al., 2008). Despite the underlying processes of matching being a centre of remarkable debate among psychologist, no model has accurately addressed the dynamics controlling this phenomenon (Simao & Todd, 2002, cited in Montoya, 2008, p. 1316). According to the existing model of matching in mate choices, perceivers’ ratings of who is physically attractive is linked to the perceivers’ own characteristics (Montoya, 2008). The relationship between the objective physical attractiveness of the perceiver and the ranking of the physical attractiveness of other individuals might account for the reason why an unattractive person ranks another unattractive person as physically attractive, and for an attractive person to rank other attractive people as attractive. Montoya (2008, p. 1316) asserts that those discrepancies in definitions of attractiveness influences whom the person would be comfortable dating; that is, whom he or she presumes would accept or reject his or her invitation in dating arena, and whom the person may end up dating.

Implications of Standardized Physical Attractiveness

         Physical attractiveness influences the way people behave towards those on whom the physical attractiveness judgments are made. Especially, this effect of standardized physical attractiveness is stressed in social-media, where people interact via an interface. The role of physical attractiveness is emphasized in online dating, where self-representation determine ones success (Montoya, 2008). There is high tendency of online daters to use false images to lure target dates online, as image choice is determined by the values of the goal of the self-presentation, and entails using a number of strategies to attain the desired impression (Montoya, 2008). Toma and Hancock (2010) proposed that, in dating where prospects dates esteem phsysical attractiveness, less attractive daters will strive to enhance self-presentation of their looks, while more physically endowed daters will tend to capitalize on their attractiveness.

Image buiding entails determining own desired impression, or the way one desires to look, and then realizing it. Consistent to the fitness-based evolutionary theories that posits that physical attractiveness is highly valued in dating, it is proper to expect online daters to aspire to be seen as physically attractive so as to seize the attention of mates, afterwhich they will engage in attempts aimed at attaining an impression of attractiveness (Toma & Hancock, 2010). In their study on online daters, Toma and Hancock (2010) discovered that less attractive daters uploaded self-enhancing pictures to increase their attractiveness, and lied more, compared to attractive daters in terms of verbal account of their physical attractiveness.

Worth of note, people seem to place more emphasis on physical attractiveness than on other aspects of human potential. In this vein, Toma and Hancock (2010) argued that given two alternative to increase their appeal on others; including by directly improving their physical attractiveness, or by improving their social status aimed at compesating for dismal physical attractiveness, less attractive daters were inclined to elect the first alternative. However, subsidiary results indicated that less attractive daters intended to also boost the appearance of their social profile (Toma & Hancock, 2010). Attractive daters, on the other hand, displayed their attractiveness by posting relatively many pictures of themselves than the less attractive daters. Thus, such tactical showcasing of pleasant traits emphasize the weight of physical attractiveness in dating.

           The implication of physical attractiveness judgments even extends to learning institutions. The way a person with a higher standing in a social system, such as school, treat people under his or her repsonsibility is influenced by their judgment of the people’s phsysical attractiveness. In the same line, Parks and Kennedy (2007) discovered that teachers perceived unattractive children as less competent than were their more physically attractive counterparts. This bias often has serious costs on the individuals who are negatively judged in terms of physical attractiveness, because teachers play a pivotal position in the academic and personal growth of a child. This point highlights the need for educators to learn that the expectations or perceptions that they hold towards children can sustain or hinder the academic development of a child.


         Physical attractiveness is a measure that is important in social, educational and romantic contexts. Physical attractives determines the social and economic status of a person. People use the criterion of physical attractiveness to determine the potential of an individual in relation to a specific cause. Naturally, people make assumptions of the way people are based on their ranking of physical attractiveness. Therefore, physical attractiveness is a concept of considerable importance in terms of social wellbeing.








Barber, N. (1995). The evolutionary psycholgy of physical attractiveness: Sexual selection and Human Morphology. Ethology and Sociobiolgy, 16, 395-424.

Conley, D., & McCabe, B. J. (2011). Body Mass Index and Physical Attractiveness: Evidence from a Combination Image-Alteratio/List Experiment. Sociological Methods & Research, 40 (1), 6-31.

Little, A. C., Burriss, R. P., Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., & Caldwell, C. A. (2008). Social Influence in Human Face Preference: Men and Women are Influenced More for Long-term than Short-term Attractiveness Decisions. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 140-146.

Marcus, D. K., & Miller, R. S. (2003). Sex Differences in Judgments of Physical Attractiveness: A Social Relations Analysis. 29 (3), 325-335.

Montoya, M. R. (2008, July 3). I’m Hot, So I’d Say You’re Not: The Influence of Objective Physical Attractiveness on Mate Selection. Pers Soc Psychol Bull, 34, pp. 1315-1331.

Parks, F. R., & Kennedy, J. H. (2007). The Impact of race, Physical attractiveness, and Gender on education majors’ and Teachers Perceptions of Student Competence. Journal of Black Studies, 37 (6), 936-943.

Toma, C. L., & Hancock, J. T. (2010). Looks and Lies: The Role of Physical Attractiveness in Online Dating Self-Presentation and Deception. Communication Research , 37 (3), 335-351.


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