Honours Bachelor of Science Psychology Thesis Personality and Physical Appearance as Predictors of Mate Selection in Females
Matthew P. Canning
Honours Bachelor of Science Thesis
January 10, 2005

Supervisor: Dr. Dwight Mazmanian Second Reader: N/A

2. Abstract

A common perception, both to the general public and popular media is that emotional characteristics such as personality are the qualities that females seek in a mate, and that these qualities outweigh more salient characteristics such as physical attractiveness, with some going so far as to say that physical attractiveness is superficial and holds no bearing whatsoever. However, many people observe that, although women say they like personality characteristics such as the ones described above, when given a choice they will go for a male who is more physically attractive in lieu of one who holds qualities such as the ones listed. In this study, both characteristics will be compared to get a deeper understanding of this popular perception by directly studying males who have differing levels on both personality and physical attractiveness characteristics.

3. Introduction

Physical attractiveness is a characteristic which is universally branded as depthless and superficial when discussed in the context of determining mate selection for both sexes. This paper will propose that physical appearance is a major factor in the mate selection criteria for human females - far greater than what most females would like to admit. Potential male mates are first visually screened to determine if they meet the minimum requirement and then screened on the basis of personality. Both evaluations are imperative in evaluating a potential mate. Several examples will be shown in experiments described and literature which further supports this assertion, including a method for more directly observing this phenomenon experimentally. Personality has no doubt been observed to play a role in mate selection, both practically and experimentally, but physical attractiveness is an often underrated characteristic, which is at times even denied to be a factor. There are many different aspects of personality and of physical attractiveness, the most important of which are described below: Physical attractiveness has been studied in a number of ways. The most common methods of study are (in no particular order); somatotype, waist-to-hip and waist-to-shoulder ratio (WHR and WSR), facial symmetry, and facial averageness (and distinctiveness). Studies of somatotype lead to results which are consistent with effects of sexual selection upon visual signals that advertise health, physical prowess, age, and underlying endocrine condition in the human male (Dixson et al, 2001). Although a variety of builds can be appealing depending on other characteristics present, ceterus paribus, a muscular (mesomorphic) somatotype is preferred by women. Many studies of WHR are geared towards the female subject base (studying female bodies) and hypothesized to show relationships between WHR and fertility / fecundity. Men with a WHR of more than 1.0 are known to be at an increased health risk because of their fat distribution. A WHR of 0.8 or 0.9 and a Waist-to-shoulder Ratio of 0.6 are most preferred by women, with these findings applying principally to those with muscular (mesomorphic) somatotypes as described above (Dixson & al, 2001). The "good genes" explanation of attractiveness posits that mate preferences favour healthy individuals due to direct and indirect benefits associated with the selection of a healthy mate. Consequently, attractiveness judgments are likely to reflect judgments of apparent health. One physical characteristic that may inform health judgments is fluctuating asymmetry as it may act as a visual marker for genetic quality and developmental stability. Consistent with these suggestions, a number of studies have found relationships between facial symmetry and facial attractiveness (Jones et al, 2001). Facial distinctiveness ratings of 17-year-olds were associated with poor childhood health in males, and poor current and adolescent health in females, although the last association was only marginally significant (Rhodes et al, 2001). Looking beyond salient physical chacteristics and onto personality, many studies have revealed that specific personality types are preferred in general to women and are very important in mate selection criteria. Niceness appeared to be the most important factor when it came to desirability for more serious relationships, whereas physical attractiveness appeared more important in terms of desirability for more casual, sexual relationships (Urbaniak et al, 2003).

4. Method, - A group of females, each university aged will participate for bonus points in their introductory Psychology class.

- (4) basic groups; (1) high physical attractiveness coupled with high personality attractiveness, (2) high physical attractiveness coupled with low personality attractiveness, (3) low physical attractiveness coupled with high personality attractiveness, (4) low physical attractiveness, coupled with low personality attractiveness.

- Results will be analyzed on SPSS to determine which is the most to least desirable males and potential reasons will be examined.

5. References.

Urbaniak, Geoffrey C., Kilmann, Peter R. (2003). Physical Attractiveness and the "Nice Guy Paradox": Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last? Sex Roles, 49, 413-426 Spencer, T.D., Mazmanian, D (2003). Body Mass Index is a Better Predictor of Physical Attractiveness Ratings than Waist-To-Hip Ratio Dixson, Alan F, Halliwell, Gayle; East, Rebecca, Wignarajah, Praveen; Anderson, Matthew J (2001). Do facial averageness and symmetry signal health? Evolution and Human Behavior, 22, 31-46

Jones, B.C., Little, A.C.a; Penton-Voak, I.S., Tiddeman, B.P., Burt, D.M., Perrett, D.I (2001). Facial symmetry and judgements of apparent health: Support for a "good genes" explanation of the attractiveness-symmetry relationship. Evolution and Human Behavior, 22, 417-429

Dixson, Alan F., Halliwell, Gayle, East, Rebecca, Wignarajah, Praveen, Anderson, Matthew J (2003). Masculine Somatotype and Hirsuteness as Determinants of Sexual Attractiveness to Women, Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 29-39.