How we perceive a person's attractiveness depends on who they are standing with or the people around them
A new research says that attractiveness not merely depends on how you look. Instead, it is judged by who you are with and how good he/she is looking in comparison to you. This means if you stand next to an unattractive person, you may appear more attractive to others. Similarly, you may not look that much attractive if you are standing alone or have no one around you to compare with.
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It has been generally believed that attractiveness is static or does not vary with the situation. However, new research proves the notion wrong and reveals a new factor that can have an influence on our level of attractiveness.
“Until now, it’s been understood that a person’s level of attractiveness is generally steady. If you saw a picture of George Clooney today, you would rate him as good-looking as tomorrow. However, this work demonstrates that the company we keep has an effect on how attractive we appear to others,” said lead author Dr Nicholas Furl of Royal Holloway's Department of Psychology.
“Rightly or wrongly, the way people look has a profound impact on the way others perceive them. We live in a society obsessed with beauty and attractiveness, but how we measure and understand these concepts is still a grey area.”
For the study, researchers enrolled 40 participants and asked them to rate pictures of different faces for their attractiveness. Then, they were asked to reassess the same faces. The only difference was that they were placed alongside others faces, which were called ‘distractor’ or unattractive faces. Researchers found that participants ranked original face higher on the scale of attractiveness when less attractive faces were added.
Participants were then shown two attractive faces alongside an unattractive one and were asked to judge them. The presence of less attractive face made the situation a bit difficult for the participants as they became even more selective and critical when comparing two attractive faces.
“The presence of a less attractive face does not just increase the attractiveness of a single person, but in a crowd could actually make us even more choosey!” explained Dr Furl. “We found that the presence of a ‘distractor’ face makes difference between attractive people more obvious and that observers start to pull apart these differences, making them even more peculiar in their judgment.”