Elsevier

Personality and Individual Differences

Abstract

We propose that physical attractiveness determines whether heterosexual men desire or dismiss romance with high-status women. We tested this ambivalent attraction hypothesis in three increasingly realistic experiments – one involving a hypothetical social interaction (N = 214) and two involving potential and actual interactions with confederates (Ns = 332 and 181). In each experiment, heterosexual men encountered a moderately-attractive or highly-attractive woman who aspired to (or held) a low-status or high-status job. Then they rated their attraction to the woman (Experiments 1 to 3) and were given the opportunity to initiate additional social contact with the woman (Experiments 2 and 3). As predicted, a meta-analysis across all three experiments revealed that higher (vs. lower) status decreased men’s attraction to moderately-attractive women (d = -0.20), whereas higher (vs. lower) status increased men’s attraction to highly-attractive women (d = 0.47). Women did not exhibit this pattern of reactions to either women or men. These results demonstrate the importance of ecological validity and interactive effects in attraction research.

Keywords

Attraction

Attractiveness

Gender-roles

Mate preferences

Relationship initiation

Status

Alexandra N. Fisher is a PhD candidate in the social psychology program at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. She studies how social role expectations affect women’s personal and professional lives.

Danu Anthony Stinson is an associate professor of social psychology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. Her research seeks to understand how self and identity shape people’s social experiences and influence their well-being.

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