Tuesday, 17 April 2007

The downside of being good-looking AND wealthy

A rich, good-looking man seeking a wife might do well to play down his wealth. That's the implication of a study by John Lycett and colleagues suggesting that some women are wary of men who are both attractive and wealthy.

One hundred and eighty-six female students rated the attractiveness of several men whose photographs were displayed on slides together with 'lonely-hearts' style profiles.

The men's faces were taken from theatrical and modelling agencies and had been categorised earlier as either unattractive, of average attractiveness or highly attractive. The accompanying profiles were standard fare (e.g. “likes socialising, good sense of humour”) but also included the men's careers. These were deliberately chosen to imply high (e.g. Architect), medium (e.g. Teacher) or low (e.g. Postman) status and wealth.

The female students were asked to rate the men for their attractiveness as long-term partners. Overall, the better looking men were rated as more attractive, as were those men with higher status.

Crucially, however, there was an interaction between facial attractiveness and status, such that good-looking men with high status were actually rated as less attractive than good-looking men of medium status. The researchers said this reflected the female strategy of avoiding men who are more likely to be unfaithful in the future.

“We provide the first evidence that a subtle shift in preference takes place at the more desirable end of the mate-choice continuum,” the researchers concluded, “...by showing greater preference for physically attractive males of lower status, females may be slightly adjusting their preferences away from males who are potentially more likely to cheat”.
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Chu, S., Hardaker, R. & Lycett, J.E. (2007). Too good to be 'true'? The handicap of high socio-economic status in attractive males. Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 1291-1300.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

8 comments:

  1. I think its interesting the researchers assumed the cause was fear of cheating (as opposed to simply calling off the relationship). While this may be true, it isn't suggested by the study.

    I would be curious to know if all types of women reacted the same way: do high-status, highly attractive women rate high status, highly attractive men lower? Perhaps people are simply looking for a better match in terms of desirability, as significant differences may cause jealousy and tension.

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  2. Anonymous1:16 pm

    I think it is rather because good women wish to fall in love with a man and not his profession, or his fateful life situation.

    Its rather comical how a premed student says he wants to BE a doctor... in stead of a more philosophically correct statement of wanted to BE 'John Doe' who practices medicine. I think that women in a way see the transparent truth of loving the man and not his wealth, career, or degree - because none of those things are capable of returning love and committing to a lasting relationship.

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  3. Nobody should want to be in a relationship with a person whose status, wealth, and or physical attractiveness would be so great as to make the balance of power in the relationship very unequal. That is why wealthy people and beautiful people tend to marry one another, and it is probably best that way.

    It may be that women have in the past been willing to be in alliances where they were less powerful, and that they are becoming less willing to do that.

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  4. Rachel4:36 pm

    The title of this article, 'Too good to be 'true'?' is intended as a pun, as in, 'Too good to be faithful.' How about taking it literally? It is possible that the young women in this sample found the 'best' (attractive and high status) adverts to be less plausible than the less impressive ads. A similar, but slightly different possibility is that they were perceived as boastful - a very unattractive quality.

    The conclusion that the women were concerned about fidelity is highly speculative and based on no evidence collected in this study. There are a number of other possible explanations.

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  5. Chaka_kahn3:23 am

    I don't know about others but for me, a good looking guy who's a teacher is just so much hotter than a good looking guy who's an architect. Good looking AND sensitive - you know the drill.

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  6. This study only analyzes what a female's first impression is given only an income and appearance. This is nothing more than a first impression at your local dive bar. I highly doubt that cheating is the sole reason that the interdependence of appearance and salary exists. It's more likely that attractive males with a high income will either bring more competition for the females, creating an inevitable rift on the female's confidence OR said males will have a pretentious attitude that will probably be less attractive to females anyway.

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  7. I would tend to chalk it up less to faithfulness and cheating than to the sense of being needed and having something to contribute ie to wanting an equal relationship. Of course none of what makes up a person is included in that study, only what makes up the outward social appearance. Having only that to go on, a person who has a "perfect" combination of social status and looks wouldn't seem to need anything and therefore he would not need a partner to compliment him. Why would you want to be with someone with no need for you? You want to be able to give not only take in a relationship.

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  8. I would find it rather hard to be rich and good-looking, since you would have to sacrifice a lot of time, money and effort that you could spend otherwise to become rich, especially if you started from the bottom. This is vise versa for people that want to be good looking, especially men. I am currently studying health and fitness, so I have done plenty of research. I have tried to work out, sleep more and eat a good diet and that cost me plenty of time and money. I also needed a secure schedule so I could follow my exercise, diet and sleep so that I could look at least half-way like a male model/pornstar (consider setbacks). Before even describing pros and cons, I would try to look at how realistic it is to do so. Even if you were to try as hard as you can, in the end it would be a matter of luck, coming from a good background and timing.

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