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Evaluating the physical attractiveness of oneself and one's romantic partner: Individual and relationship correlates of the love-is-blind bias.

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The present study sought to extend recent work by examining individual and relationship variables that predict the love-is-blind bias, that is, a tendency to perceive one's romantic partner as more attractive than oneself. A sample of 113 men and 143 women completed a battery of tests that included various demographic, individual difference, and relationship-related measures. Results pro-vided support for a love-is-blind bias, in that both women and men rated their romantic partners as significantly more attractive than themselves on overall attractiveness and the attractiveness of various body components. Results also showed that the Big Five person-ality factor of Extraversion, self-esteem, relationship satisfaction, and romantic love were positively correlated with the love-is-blind bias, whereas relationship length and playful love were negatively correlated with the bias. The results of this study are considered in relation to previous work on positive partner illusions. In the past several decades, psychologists have shown that our everyday experiences of social interactions are based, at least in part, on perceptions and cognitions that deviate from reality (e.g., Alicke, 1985; Lipkus, Martz, Panter, Drigotas, & Feaganes, 1993; Showers, 1992). One such deviation is positive illusions – misconceptions or misunderstandings (rather than "errors" in the strict sense) that are self-enhancing in some way (Taylor & Brown, 1988). Positive illusions may be protective for the individual that possesses them because they act as self-esteem buffers in the face of threats posed by nega-tive information (see Taylor, Lerner, Sherman, Sage, & McDowell, 2003). In the present paper, we examine one specific type of positive illusion, namely the "love-is-blind bias" in perceived physical attractiveness of a ro-mantic partner, which refers to a tendency to view one's romantic partner as being more physically attractive than oneself (Swami, Furnham, Georgiades, & Pang, 2007). More specifically, we investigated whether there are any individual and relationship correlates of the love-is-blind bias.
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V.Swami et al.: LoveIs BlindJournalofIndividualD ifferences 2009; Vol. 30(1):35–43© 2009Hogrefe& Huber Publishers
Evaluating the Physical
Attractiveness of Oneself
and One’s Romantic Partner
Individual and Relationship Correlates
of the Love-Is-Blind Bias
Viren Swami1, Stefan Stieger2, Tanja Haubner3,
Martin Voracek3, and Adrian Furnham4
1Department of Psychology, University of Westminster, London, UK, 2Core Unit for Medical Education,
Medical University of Vienna, Austria, 3Department of Basic Psychological Research, School of
Psychology, University of Vienna, Austria, 4Department of Psychology, University College London, UK
Abstract. The present study sought to extend recent work by examining individual and relationship variables that predict the love-is-
blind bias, that is, a tendency to perceive one’s romantic partner as more attractive than oneself. A sample of 113 men and 143 women
completed a battery of tests that included various demographic, individual difference, and relationship-related measures. Results pro-
vided support for a love-is-blind bias, in that both women and men rated their romantic partners as significantly more attractive than
themselves on overall attractiveness and the attractiveness of various body components. Results also showed that the Big Five person-
ality factor of Extraversion, self-esteem, relationship satisfaction, and romantic love were positively correlated with the love-is-blind
bias, whereas relationship length and playful love were negatively correlated with the bias. The results of this study are considered in
relation to previous work on positive partner illusions.
Keywords: love-is-blind bias, positive illusions, self-rated attractiveness, physical attractiveness, partner perceptions
In the past several decades, psychologists have shown
that our everyday experiences of social interactions are
based, at least in part, on perceptions and cognitions that
deviate from reality (e.g., Alicke, 1985; Lipkus, Martz,
Panter, Drigotas, & Feaganes, 1993; Showers, 1992).
One such deviation is positive illusions – misconceptions
or misunderstandings (rather than “errors” in the strict
sense) that are self-enhancing in some way (Taylor &
Brown, 1988). Positive illusions may be protective for
the individual that possesses them because they act as
self-esteem buffers in the face of threats posed by nega-
tive information (see Taylor, Lerner, Sherman, Sage, &
McDowell, 2003). In the present paper, we examine one
specific type of positive illusion, namely the “love-is-
blind bias” in perceived physical attractiveness of a ro-
mantic partner, which refers to a tendency to view one’s
romantic partner as being more physically attractive than
oneself (Swami, Furnham, Georgiades, & Pang, 2007).
More specifically, we investigated whether there are any
individual and relationship correlates of the love-is-blind
bias.
Positive Illusions in Romantic Relationships
Although some research exists to show that individuals typ-
ically self-enhance in relation to others, positive illusions
may also serve to differentiate intimates from other persons
(Brown, 1986; Taylor, & Koivumaki, 1976). Thus, a num-
ber of studies have reported that individuals tend to evalu-
ate themselves more positively than they evaluate their in-
timates, and their intimates more positively than strangers
or the average person (Campbell, 1986; Hall & Taylor,
1976; Vallone, Griffin, Lin, & Ross, 1990; van Lange,
1991). In short, self-enhancement is less pronounced in
close relationships than in more distant relationships (Ken-
ny, 1994), possibly as a means of reducing partner deroga-
tion and associated negative effects on the self and the re-
lationship.
However, romantic relationships are extremely complex,
as they involve a range of perceptions of the self and partner,
as well as comparisons with others (e.g., Rusbult & Buunk,
1993; Rusbult, van Lange, Wildschut, Yovetich, & Verette,
2000; van Lange, Rusbult, Semin-Goossens, Gœrts, & Stal-
DOI 10.1027/1614-0001.30.1.35
© 2009 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers Journal of Individual Differences 2009; Vol. 30(1):35–43
pers, 1999). In general, individuals tend to hold a greater
number of positive beliefs and fewer negative beliefs about
their own relationships in comparison with others relation-
ships (Buunk & van Yperen, 1991; van Lange & Rusbult,
1995). For instance, surveys have reported that up to 80% of
spouses describe their marriages in very positive terms (Lee,
Seccombe, & Sheehan, 1991), while underestimating their
chances of divorce in comparison with other couples (Fow-
ers, Lyons, Montel, & Shaked, 2001).
The study of cognitive biases may be particularly informa-
tive in romantic relationships, as they are often based on pos-
itive illusions that help foster better relationships (Martz et
al., 1998; Murray & Holmes, 1997) and enhance the per-
ceived image of the other person in the relationship (Byrne,
1971; Murstein, 1972). For instance, one study showed that
individuals in dating and married relationships projected im-
ages of what they considered to be their ideal partner onto
their current partners, thus, imbuing them with all kinds of
idealized qualities (McNulty, O’Mara, & Karney, 2008; Mur-
ray, Holmes, & Griffin, 1996a). Even when confronted with
their partners’ faults, such as an attraction to someone else
(Simpson, Ickes, & Blackstone, 1995), individuals tend to
deny the importance of those faults (Murray & Holmes, 1993,
1994). Such positive illusions may serve to enhance an indi-
vidual’s sense of security in the relationship and stabilize the
long-term pair bond (Murray, 1999). Indeed, previous work
has shownthat positive illusions about a partner are associat-
ed with greater relationship satisfaction and less conflict in
dating and marital relationships (Murray & Holmes, 1997).
Moreover, positive illusions concerning nonphysical partner
traits appear to have a positive effect on relationship satisfac-
tion both in the short- (Miller, Niehuis, & Huston, 2006) and
long-term (Murray & Holmes, 1997; see also Murray et al.,
1996a; Murray, Holmes, & Griffin, 1996b).
One particular form of positive partner illusions is what
has been termed the “love-is-blind bias” (see Swami & Furn-
ham, 2008a)in perceived partner physical attractiveness.Per-
haps because of the infancy of research in this area, the love-
is-blind bias has been operationalized in different ways (Ba-
relds-Dijkstra & Barelds, 2008; Swami et al., 2007), but in
general it refers to a tendency to perceive one’s partner as
being more attractive than objective reality. This focus on
perceptions of physical attractiveness within romantic rela-
tionships is not misplaced: Physical attractiveness plays an
influential role both in the formation and maintenance of ro-
mantic relationships (see Swami & Furnham, 2008b). In
terms of the latter, for instance, studies have shown that per-
ceptions’ of partner physical attractiveness are associated
with relationship indicators such as commitment, intimacy,
satisfaction, and passion (Yela & Sangrador, 2001; see also
McNulty, Neff, & Karney, 2008).
The Present Study
In the present study, we sought to examine the love-is-blind
bias in ratings of partner physical attractiveness in compar-
ison with ratings of the self. This work stems from a study
by Swami et al. (2007), who asked participants to provide
ratings of overall physical attractiveness and the attractive-
ness of various body parts for themselves and their oppo-
site-sex romantic partners (Swami et al., 2007). Their re-
sults showed that both women and men rated their partners
as being significantly more attractive than themselves, a
finding that appears to be rather robust (Byrne, 1971; Mur-
stein, 1972) and generalizable (see Barelds-Dijkstra & Ba-
relds, 2008, who measured the love-is-blind bias as the dif-
ference between perceptions of one’s partner and the part-
ner’s self-ratings).
That the love-is-blind bias is held by both women and
men is important, as it suggests that the existence of cog-
nitive bias that is general to both sexes. As such, the defin-
ing characteristics of the love-is-blind bias may have little
to do with demographic factors such as sex, and more to
do with relationship variables such as satisfaction and love
(Swami et al., 2007). Moreover, both women and men
should be expected to hold the love-is-blind bias if it serves
some beneficial function. Indeed, recent work has suggest-
ed that the love-is-blind bias may buffer individuals against
negative appraisals while enhancing self-beliefs (Barelds-
Dijkstra & Barelds, 2008; Swami & Furnham, 2008a; Swa-
mi et al., 2007). That is, positive illusions about partner
physical attractiveness may initially serve to focus one’s
perceptions of a new partner on their positive qualities, thus
helping individuals navigate early romance (Swami &
Furnham, 2008a). In the long term, the love-is-blind bias
may serve to enhance commitment to the relationship,
which in turn results in improved relationship satisfaction
and self-esteem (see Taylor & Brown, 1988).
To date, however, research has not examined the indi-
vidual and relationship variables that might predict the
love-is-blind bias. Because self- and other evaluations are
grounded within specific socioindividual contexts (Kwan,
John, Kenny, Bond, & Robins, 2004), it is possible that
individual difference variables influence the direction or
strength of the love-is-blind bias. The present study, there-
fore, set out to replicate previous work documenting a love-
is-blind bias (operationalized as the difference between
partner perceptions and self-perceptions of physical attrac-
tiveness; see Gagné & Lydon, 2004), before examining var-
ious individual and relationship correlates of the bias. In
terms of individual difference variables, we examined the
relationship of the love-is-blind bias with an individual’s
Big Five personality factors (see Goldberg, 1993).
The Big Five framework is a hierarchical model of per-
sonality with five bipolar traits or factors (Agreeableness,
Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Openness, and Extraver-
sion) representing personality at a broad level of abstrac-
tion (McCrae & Costa, 1997), and has recently been shown
to influence perceptions of the physical attractiveness of
potential partners (e.g., Swami, Furnham, Balakumar et al.,
2008, Swami, Furnham, Chamorro-Premuzic et al., 2008).
However, no previous work has assessed the Big Five
framework in relation to the love-is-blind bias, which the
36 V. Swami et al.: Love Is Blind
Journal of Individual Differences 2009; Vol. 30(1):35–43 © 2009 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers
present study sought to rectify. Although this part of the
study was largely exploratory, possible hypotheses include
the suggestion that the love-is-blind bias will be positively
associated with Agreeableness (as agreeable individuals
are especially concerned with social harmony) or Extraver-
sion (extraverts may be more likely to form positive illu-
sions because of their higher engagement with the external
world).
In addition to the Big Five, we also measured an indi-
vidual’s self-esteem, which provides a relative and reliable
measure of perceived self-worth. It seems likely that self-
esteem should be positively correlated with the love-is-
blind bias, either because higher self-esteem leads to more
positive behavioral styles within romantic relationships, or
because positive illusions of partner physical attractiveness
serves to increase one’s own self-esteem. Finally, in terms
of individual difference correlates, we also examined the
association of the love-is-blind bias with participants’ so-
ciosexual orientation, which measures an individual’s pro-
pensity to engage in low-investment, transient sexual rela-
tionships. We expected that participants with a restricted
sociosexual orientation (that is, requiring high emotional
investment and prolonged courtship before engaging in
sexual relationships) would be more likely to hold positive
partner illusions than participants with an unrestricted so-
ciosexual orientation (that is, a willingness to engage in
sexual relations in the absence of commitment).
In terms of relationship variables, we examined the as-
sociation of the love-is-blind bias with relationship satis-
faction, love styles, and relationship length. Specifically,
we expected that the love-is-blind bias should be positively
associated with relationship satisfaction, either because
higher satisfaction may leads individuals to imbue their
partners with more positive qualities, or because more pos-
itive illusions increases the stability of relationships and,
hence, the satisfaction derived from those relationships. In
terms of love styles, we expected that the love-is-blind bias
would increase with positive love-styles (that is, romantic
love and friendship-based love), but decrease with negative
love styles (that is, ludic love). Finally, we predicted that
the love-is-blind bias would decrease with greater length
of the relationship, because individuals come to develop a
more accurate image of their partners. An alternative pos-
sibility is that the strength of the love-is-blind bias decreas-
es with relationship length because partners become less
attractive with age, and to test this possibility we also ex-
amined the bias in relation to partner age.
Method
Participants
The initial sample consisted of 266 individuals of, for the
most part, heterosexual orientation. Because of the very
small number of participants who reported being gay (n=
5) or unsure of their sexual orientation (n= 5), data from
these participants were not analyzed in the present study.
The final (exclusively heterosexual) sample, therefore,
consisted of 113 men and 143 women, with a mean age of
34.13 years (SD = 12.65). Data collection took place in Vi-
enna and its surrounding area (Eastern Austria), and repre-
sents a mixed community sample of volunteers from vari-
ous occupational and living backgrounds. Only participants
who were involved in a romantic relationship at the time
of the experiment were invited to take part in the study. The
majority of participants were Christians (85.9%) or of no
religious affiliation (10.2%). In terms of the civil status of
participants’ relationships, 50.0% were in a dating relation-
ship, 42.6% were married, and the remainder (7.4%) were
engaged to be married. In terms of highest educational
qualification, 22.4% had been educated to primary level,
33.5% to secondary level, 22.0% to an apprenticeship level,
6.2% to university level, and 15.9% to some other level.
Measures
All participants completed a six-page questionnaire, which
comprised a battery of scales presented in the following
order:
Relationship demographics. Participants were asked a
number of questions about the nature of their relation-
ships, including its sexual orientation and civil status.
Participants were also asked to state, in months, how
long they had been dating their current partner, and
where applicable, how long they had been married or
engaged (the two figures were computed as a single vari-
able relating to length of the relationship).
Relationship satisfaction. This was a novel nine-item
scale designed to assess multiple aspects of relationship
satisfaction. Participants rated, on 7-point scales, items
referring to overall satisfaction with the relationship, re-
lationship quality, self-partner similarity, consideration
of ending the relationship, and frequency of conflict. A
principal components analysis using Varimax (orthogo-
nal) rotation revealed a single factor onto which all items
loaded (eigenvalue = 5.12, 56.9% of the variance ex-
plained). All items had factor loadings higher than .55.
A single factor score for relationship satisfaction was,
therefore, computed by taking the average of responses
across the nine items (Cronbach’s a= .89).
Revised Lovestyle Perceptions Survey (Grote & Frieze,
1994). Participants completed three scales designed to
measure (1) romantic love with deep intensity and inti-
macy (Eros-R, four items), (2) game-playing love with
little intensity or intimacy (Ludus-R, six items), and (3)
friendship-based love defined as an affectionate and
trusting love for a likable partner (FBL, nine items). All
items were rated on a 7-point scale, with lower scores
indicating greater disagreement with the item. Scores
were calculated by taking the average of responses asso-
ciated with each subscale, as delineated by Grote &
V. Swami et al.: Love Is Blind 37
© 2009 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers Journal of Individual Differences 2009; Vol. 30(1):35–43
Frieze (1994). Cronbach’s αcoefficients for each scale
were .69 for Eros-R, .60 for Ludus-R, and .89 for FBL,
whicharesimilartopreviousreportedcoefficients
(Grote & Frieze, 1994).
Abbreviated, 15-item Big Five Questionnaire (Furnham,
McManus, & Scott, 2003; McManus, Stubbings, & Mar-
tin, 2006). This is a brief scale for assessing the Big Five
personality traits, suitable for looking at population-level
correlations. Ratings were made on a 5-point scale (1 =
Strongly disagree,5=Strongly agree). The five person-
ality traits were arrived at by summing certain items, and
Cronbach’s αcoefficients were as follows: Openness
(.61), Conscientiousness (.59), Extraversion (.56),
Agreeableness (.51), and Neuroticism (.55). These coef-
ficients are similar to what has been reported in earlier
studies (Furnham et al., 2003; McManus et al., 2006).
Estimating Physical Attractiveness Scale (EPA; Swami
et al., 2007). The EPA shows a normal distribution of
attractiveness ratings and titles against each score (M=
100, SD = 15). Thus, 55 was labeled Very unattractive,
70 Unattractive,85Low average, 100 Average,115High
average, 130 Attractive, 145 Very attractive. As a guide
against which to make their ratings, participants were
informed that there are some very attractive individuals,
but that most people are of average attractiveness (de-
picted as the normal or bell-shaped distribution of attrac-
tiveness ratings). When making their ratings, partici-
pants were informed that the labels acted as a guide and
that they could choose any number that they felt was
most appropriate. Based on the normal distribution fig-
ure, participants were asked to provide ratings for overall
physical attractiveness, overall facial attractiveness,
overall body weight or size, overall body shape or figure,
and overall height. This was followed by ratings for var-
ious individual attributes of human morphology (e.g.,
eyes, stomach, nose; see Table 1 for a full list of items
used in this study). Participants were requested to pro-
vide ratings for themselves and for their romantic part-
ners.
Revised Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (SOI-R; Pen-
ke & Asendorpf, in press). This is a nine-item question-
naire that assesses an individual’s propensity to engage
in low-investment, transient sexual relations. The origi-
nal SOI (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991) has been criti-
cized for being psychometrically problematic (Asen-
dorpf & Penke, 2005; Voracek, 2005) and we, therefore,
used a more recent revision of the SOI, which overcomes
some of the earlier problems (Penke & Asendorpf, in
press). Responses on all items were scored on 5-point
scales and were aggregated to form a composite SOI-R
score, ranging from 9 to 45. Those scoring low on the
inventory possess a restricted sociosexual orientation
(requiring high emotional investment and prolonged
courtship before engaging in sexual relations), while
those scoring high on the inventory possess an unrestrict-
ed sociosexual orientation (willing to engage in sexual
relations in the absence of commitment).
Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE; Rosenberg, 1965;
German translation: Von Collani & Herzberg, 2003). The
RSE is a brief, 10-item scale measuring self-worth, rated
on a 4-point scale (1 = Strongly disagree,4=Strongly
agree). Five items were reverse-coded prior to analysis,
and an overall RSE score was computed by taking the
average of responses to all items. The scale showed good
internal consistency (Cronbach’s α= .74).
Demographics. Participants provided their demographic
details, including age, sex, ethnicity, and highest educa-
tional qualification.
Procedure
All participants were recruited opportunistically through a
snowball-sampling technique. A number of data collectors,
who were project collaborators, directly recruited partici-
pants through their personal contacts (that is, friends and,
relatives). Each paper-and-pencil questionnaire was placed
in a sealed envelope and inserted into a box which was then
shaken. Participants were informed that the data would be
prepared and analyzed by a different person in order to
maintain the highest possible anonymity. Unless otherwise
stated above, three researchers (TH, SS, MV) developed
German versions of the scales from their originals in Eng-
lish, using the parallel blind technique (Behling & Law,
2000). All participants provided informed consent and
were debriefed following the experiment.
Results
Descriptive Statistics
Ms and SDs for each item in the EPA are shown in Table
1, whereas those for all other scales are reported in Table
2. As can be seen from the latter, men scored significantly
higher than women on Ludus-R, Openness, and SOI-R. To
examine sex differences in ratings on the EPA, we comput-
ed a multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA),
with participant sex as the classification factor, and with
Ludus-R, Openness, and SOI-R partialled out. Four sepa-
rate MANCOVAs were calculated: (1) self-ratings for
“overall” items (e.g., overall physical attractiveness, over-
all height) on the EPA, (2) self-ratings for low-level items
(e.g., eyes, nose), (3) partner ratings for overall items, and
(4) partner ratings for low-level items.
The results of the first MANCOVA showed no signifi-
cant sex difference, F(5, 247) = 1.43, p>.05. The second
MANCOVA returned a significant sex difference,
F(15, 237) = 1.99, p< .05, ηp2= .11; with the analyses of
covariance (ANCOVAs) showing that women rated them-
selves higher on eyes, F(1, 251) = 4.57, p< .05, ηp2= .02;
teeth, F(1, 251) = 5.24, p<.05,ηp2= .02; buttocks,
F(1, 251) = 6.73, p< .05, ηp2= .03; and legs, F(1, 251) =
38 V. Swami et al.: Love Is Blind
Journal of Individual Differences 2009; Vol. 30(1):35–43 © 2009 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers
Table 1. Means and standard deviations for all variables in the Estimating Physical Attractiveness (EPA) Scale, and results
of self-partner comparisons (last column)
Item Self-ratings Partner-ratings ta
Women Men Women Men
M SD M SD M SD M SD
Overall physical attractiveness 103.05 13.47 105.90 16.78 111.37 15.93 114.38 15.46 –8.27
Overall facial attractiveness 105.44 14.11 105.97 16.70 112.10 15.75 115.32 16.88 –8.14
Overall body weight or size 97.50 21.30 100.34 20.24 107.82 17.17 107.57 18.02 –5.78
Overall body shape or figure 97.18 21.33 101.40 21.31 109.55 17.96 110.33 18.36 –7.06
Overall height 104.08 18.66 108.38 18.51 113.29 19.56 108.50 17.49 –4.23
Breasts/chest 102.33 18.09 100.27 13.96 107.71 16.00 112.83 17.28 –6.22
Eyes 113.25 17.15 109.35 16.52 116.40 17.90 116.46 16.41 –4.32
Mouth and lips 108.76 15.87 106.68 15.49 112.19 17.28 115.22 15.96 –5.60
Cheeks 102.99 13.21 102.05 15.60 106.47 15.15 110.65 15.37 –6.87
Voice 104.20 15.71 103.13 16.63 111.44 17.05 107.64 16.99 –5.13
Nose 101.13 17.58 99.36 15.21 105.99 18.11 109.67 17.56 –5.68
Teeth 100.87 18.68 97.42 14.36 103.16 19.42 108.59 17.45 –4.29
Waist 98.31 18.36 100.06 18.24 105.70 17.10 106.92 18.86 –5.73
Hips 96.24 18.09 99.45 15.91 106.78 16.08 106.15 16.88 –6.99
Stomach 92.73 18.44 94.96 20.00 103.22 19.40 104.95 17.71 –7.68
Hands 102.80 19.65 103.18 16.76 111.74 18.82 110.26 17.22 –6.70
Buttocks 97.62 20.52 105.29 19.65 115.97 16.92 111.94 19.20 –9.46
Legs 95.35 21.16 102.22 16.76 109.45 17.72 106.28 16.23 –6.78
Feet 99.02 16.84 101.65 14.20 104.17 17.46 105.55 14.38 –4.00
Skin 103.76 18.10 102.31 17.28 106.40 17.62 110.39 18.18 –4.01
Note. adf = 255, all results significant at the p< .001 level.
Table 2. Means, standard deviations and Fratios for sex differences on all scales used in the present study with the exception
of the Estimating Physical Attractiveness (EPA) Scale
Scale Overall Women Men Fa
M SD M SD M SD
Relationship length (months) 144.70 179.69 135.87 186.36 151.67 174.34 0.49
Relationship satisfaction 5.38 0.91 5.35 0.98 5.43 0.83 0.46
Eros-R 5.84 0.93 5.80 0.94 5.90 0.94 0.81
Ludus-R 2.46 1.03 2.32 0.97 2.64 1.07 6.21*
FBL 6.03 0.94 6.01 0.93 6.05 0.96 0.07
Conscientiousness 9.72 1.51 9.81 1.44 9.61 1.60 1.11
Extraversion 10.30 2.01 10.31 2.00 10.28 2.04 0.01
Neuroticism 8.42 2.28 8.59 2.34 8.20 2.19 1.80
Agreeableness 10.43 1.25 10.43 1.19 10.56 1.32 2.26
Openness 8.95 1.71 8.74 1.39 9.22 2.02 5.05*
SOI-R 21.93 3.56 21.10 3.15 22.96 3.78 18.45**
RSE 26.59 1.65 26.56 1.69 26.64 1.60 0.14
Note. *p< .05, **p< .001, adf = 1.255. Abbreviations: FBL = Friendship-Based Love; SOI-R = Revised Sociosexual Orientation Inventory;
RSE = Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.
V. Swami et al.: Love Is Blind 39
© 2009 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers Journal of Individual Differences 2009; Vol. 30(1):35–43
5.24, p< .05, ηp2= .02. The third MANCOVA, for partner
ratings on overall items, showed a significant sex differ-
ence, F(5, 247) = 2.82, p< .05, ηp2= .02; and an inspection
of the ANCOVA results showed that women rated their
partners significantly higher than did men on overall
height, F(1, 251) = 4.04, p< .05, ηp2= .02. The final
MANCOVA also showed a significant sex difference,
F(15, 237) = 3.44, p< .001, ηp2= .18. The ANCOVA re-
sults showed that men rated their partners higher than did
women on breasts/chest, F(1, 251) = 7.00, p< .05, ηp2=
.03; cheeks, F(1, 251) = 5.04, p<.05,ηp2= .02; teeth,
F(1, 251) = 6.00, p< .05, ηp2= .02; and skin, F(1, 251) =
4.84, p< .05, ηp2= .02.
Self-Partner Differences in Ratings
To examine whether the present data provide evidence for
the love-is-blind bias, we computed a series of paired t-tests
for all variables on the EPA. The results of this analysis are
presented in the final column of Table 1. As can be seen,
participants rated their partners as significantly more at-
tractive than themselves on all variables of the EPA, which
provides very strong support for the love-is-blind bias.
Individual and Relationship Correlates
To examine the relationship between the love-is-blind bias
with our measured variables, we first computed the former
as the difference between ratings of partner overall attrac-
tiveness and self overall attractiveness. These difference
scores were then correlated with the various individual (Big
Five personality factors and self-esteem) and relationship
(love styles, relationship length, and relationship satisfac-
tion) measures. The results of this analysis are reported in
Table 3, and it can be seen that the love-is-blind bias was
significantly positively correlated with Extraversion, self-
esteem, relationship satisfaction, and Eros-R; and negative-
ly correlated with relationship length and Ludic-R.
To examine whether any of the variables statistically
predicted the love-is-blind bias, we conducted a hierarchi-
cal multiple regression with the love-is-blind difference
scores as the dependent variable and predictor variables
entered in two steps, namely individual difference variables
(Big Five personality factors, self-esteem, and sociosexual
orientation) and relationship variables (relationship length,
relationship satisfaction, love styles, partner age). Results
showed that the first step of the regression was not signif-
icant, F(7, 248) = 1.90, p>.05. In contrast, the second step
of the regression returned a significant result, F(13, 242) =
2.72, p< .001, Adj. R2= .08, with Ludus-R (β= –.19, t=
–2.65, p< .05), self-esteem (β= .15, t= 2.42, p< .05), and
Extraversion (β= .14, t= 2.11, p< .05) emerging as sig-
nificant predictors of the love-is-blind bias.
Discussion
The results of this study support previous work suggesting
that there exists a positive illusion in perceptions of partner
physical attractiveness. Specifically, individuals appear to
perceive their romantic partners as being significantly more
attractive than themselves on a range of bodily compo-
nents. Moreover, there appear to be few sex differences in
this pattern, with both women and men just as likely to hold
the love-is-blind bias. The results of the present study also
showed that the love-is-blind bias was significantly associ-
ated with love styles (negatively with playful love and pos-
itively with romantic love), Extraversion, self-esteem, re-
Table 3. Correlations between the love-is-blind bias and individual difference and relationship variables
2345678910 11 12 13 14
1. Love-is-blind bias .93 .15* –.04 –.01 .08 .15* –.01 –.14* .20** .17** –.20** .08 .12
2. Conscientiousness .19** .12 .14* .17** –.07 –.01 .06 –.06 .01 .09 –.03 .09
3. Extraversion –.04 .12 .18** .08 .20** –.19** .10 .12 .19** .07 –.20**
4. Neuroticism .06 .10 –.15* –.08 .05 –.21** –.11 .05 –.08 .07
5. Agreeableness .10 –.12 .07 .08 –.03 .04 .04 .08 .08
6. Openness –.04 .12 .05 –.05 –.06 .20** –.04 .05
7. Self-esteem –.02 –.08 .10 –.01 –.13* .03 –.10
8. Sociosexual orientation –.20** –.06 –.08 .29** –.08 –.17**
9. Relationship length –.22** –.04 –.07 –.01 .72**
10. Relationship satisfaction .70** –.30** .74** –.25**
11. Eros-R –.33** .76** –.24**
12. Ludus-R –.36** –.02
13. Friendship-based Love –.06
14. Partner’s age
Note. *p< .05, **p< .001.
40 V. Swami et al.: Love Is Blind
Journal of Individual Differences 2009; Vol. 30(1):35–43 © 2009 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers
lationship satisfaction, and relationship length. These re-
sults are considered in greater detail below.
First, to the extent that participants in the present study
rated their partners as more physically attractive than them-
selves, our results corroborate previous work in support of
the love-is-blind bias (Barelds-Dijkstra & Barelds, 2008;
Swami et al., 2007). It is, therefore, possible to conclude
that the love-is-blind bias is one instance in which partner
perceptions “trump” self-perceptions. This runs counter to
the relatively well-established finding that individuals of-
ten self-enhance in relation to others (e.g., on positive qual-
ities such as trustworthiness), including their intimate part-
ners (Brown, 1986; Taylor & Koivumaki, 1976). It would
appear that, where perceptions of physical attractiveness
are concerned, self-enhancement is less pronounced in re-
lation to intimate partners.
Swami and associates (Swami & Furnham, 2008a; Swa-
mi et al., 2007) have suggested a number of possibilities
that may explain the love-is-blind bias. First, it is possible
that partners in the present study really were better-looking
than the participants themselves. One way of testing this
hypothesis would be to include ratings of participants by a
nonaffiliated control group (e.g., using photographs of par-
ticipants). However, it is unlikely that this will provide a
complete answer, as it is seems improbable that all partners
are more attractive than the self. Rather, the fact that posi-
tive partner illusions are robust and widespread suggests
that these really are examples of partner idealism (van
Lange & Rusbult, 1995).
A more likely explanation is that the love-is-blind bias
is a normal part of maintaining relationship satisfaction and
commitment to the relationship (see Rusbult et al., 2000).
For instance, positive partner illusions may serve to buffer
self-esteem and create better relationships (see Taylor &
Brown, 1988), particularly during the initial stages of a ro-
mance. Initial attraction to a potential partner may involve
composite images of idealized romance, but it nevertheless
remains the case that positive illusions may enhance per-
ceptions of the relationship, and in turn enhance self-per-
ceptions (Brehm, Miller, Perlman, & Campbell, 2002;
Flannagan, Marsh, & Fuhrman, 2005). In the long term,
such positive illusions may have a beneficial effect on the
relationship (e.g., prolonging feelings of love) as well as
on individual health and well-being.
In the present study, we also found that the love-is-blind
bias was significantly associated with a number of individ-
ual and relationship variables. In terms of individual differ-
ence variables, the bias was positively correlated with the
Big Five personality factor of Extraversion, which may be
related to the fact that extraverts are oriented toward ob-
taining external gratification, particularly from human in-
teractions. That is, more extraverted individuals may be
more likely to hold positive illusions because such doing
so may promote social interactions, particularly within ro-
mantic relationships. Our results also showed that self-es-
teem was correlated with the love-is-blind bias, and as sug-
gested above, this could either be because higher self-es-
teem results in more positive behavioral styles in relation
to the partner or because holding positive illusions serves
to enhance one’s own self-worth (that is, believing that the
partner is more attractive than the self may serve to improve
self-perceptions; Swami et al., 2007).
Our results also showed that positive illusions in partner
physical attractiveness were stronger when individuals
were high in romantic love (that is, intimate, intense, and
affectionate love for one’s partner) and low in playful love
(game-playing love with little intensity or intimacy). Being
intimately in love with someone may be a particularly
strong buffer against negative partner perceptions, either
because it serves to imbue the partner with various positive
qualities that do not exist in reality (see McNulty, O’Mara
et al., 2008; Murray et al., 1996a,1996b), or because it en-
sures that the individual turns a blind eye toward existing
weaknesses (see Murray & Holmes, 1993, 1994; Simpson
et al., 1995). Our results also corroborated previous work
showing that positive illusions of a partner are associated
with greater relationship satisfaction (e.g., Miller et al.,
2006; Murray & Holmes, 1997; Murray et al., 1996a,b).
Finally, length of the relationship was negatively corre-
lated the love-is-blind bias, suggesting that, as the relation-
ship progresses and an individual gets to know her or his
partner better (or possibly with decreasing satisfaction de-
rived from the relationship), the love-is-blind bias may de-
crease in strength. Moreover, we were able to rule out the
possibility that this effect was the result of an objective
decrease in the partner’s physical attractiveness with age,
as our results showed that partner age was not significantly
correlated with the love-is-blind bias. These results suggest
that reality may be damaging for an individual’s confi-
dence, and in turn, for the relationship itself (Murray &
Holmes, 1997), suggesting that the love-is-blind illusion
may be strongest during the initial part of a relationship.
In terms of limitations, the exploratory nature of this
study should be acknowledged. Although our results sup-
ported a number of our predictions, there are a wide range
of other individual difference variables that may predict
ratings of self- and partner physical attractiveness, such as
inaccurate worldviews, illusions of control, optimism, and
subjective happiness or contentment. In addition, the rela-
tively low Cronbach’s αcoefficients for some scales could
have caused the lack of significance for some variables.
Future work would do well, therefore, to include a wider
range of scales that demonstrate better validity and reliabil-
ity. Future work may also wish to examine the love-is-blind
bias in different cultural contexts, particularly between col-
lectivist and individualist cultures (see Heine & Hama-
mura, 2007), or among nonheterosexual samples. The latter
is important because our reliance on a heterosexual sample
means that we cannot rule out the possibility that the love-
is-blind bias in the present instance was caused by partici-
pants finding members of the opposite sex more attractive
than members of their own sex. Future studies could begin
the task of overcoming this concern by examining the love-
is-blind bias among gay and lesbian participants, or by al-
V. Swami et al.: Love Is Blind 41
© 2009 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers Journal of Individual Differences 2009; Vol. 30(1):35–43
tering the EPA to assess broader perceptions of attractive-
ness rather than simply assessing partner perceptions.
In conclusion, the present study adds to recent work doc-
umenting a love-is-blind bias in perceptions of romantic
partner physical attractiveness. Both women and men ap-
pear to believe that their significant others are more phys-
ically attractive than themselves, which may have benefi-
cial effects both on the relationship and on the self. More-
over, there appear to be a number of individual and
relationship correlates of the love-is-blind bias, notably
love styles, self-esteem, and the Big Five personality facet
of Extraversion. More generally, our findings corroborate
existing work suggesting that experiences of social inter-
actions may not be entirely accurate, but are, rather, based
on illusory ideals.
Acknowledgments
Tanja Haubner is supported by a Young Researcher Mini
Grant from the Dean’s Office of the School of Psychology,
University of Vienna.
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Viren Swami
Department of Psychology
University of Westminster
309 Regent Street
London W1B 2UW
UK
E-mail virenswami@hotmail.com
V. Swami et al.: Love Is Blind 43
© 2009 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers Journal of Individual Differences 2009; Vol. 30(1):35–43
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... For example, the ludus love style correlates with, among other things, impulsivity (Mallandain and Davies 1994); sensation seeking (Richardson, Medvin, and Hammock 1988); sexual permissiveness (Bailey, Hendrick, and Hendrick 1987); low partner engagement (Frey and Hojjat 1998); low neuroticism and agreeableness in men (White, Hendrick, and Hendrick 2004); extraversion and psychoticism (Davies 1996); low relationship satisfaction, sociosexual orientation, and the absence of a love-is-blind bias (that is, ascribing greater psychical attractiveness to one's partner than to oneself) (Swami, Stieger et al. 2009; see also Vedes et al. 2016); and the "dark triad" variables of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy (Jonason and Kavanagh 2010). Examples of traits typically associated with ludus are inconsiderateness, secrecy, dishonesty, selfishness, danger, and immaturity (Taraban and Hendrick 1995). ...
Poster
Individual differences in how people deal with ridicule and being laughed at can be described by three personality dispositions; namely, gelotophobia (fear of being laughed at), gelotophilia (joy of being laughed at), and katagelasticism (joy of laughing at others). Recent findings show that they are associated with indicators of the romantic life (e.g., partner similarity; relationship satisfaction). An important facilitator of stability and satisfaction in romantic relationships is the romantic attachment style, an internal working model of interpersonal experiences. Individual differences in adult attachment are described with the dimensions of avoidance and anxiety and typically four types are distinguished (i.e., secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, & fearful-avoidant). To investigate the relationship between the three dispositions and dimensions/types of attachment, N = 245 participants (M = 28.8, 18-72, median = 24 years; 30% male; 33% single) completed the PhoPhiKat-45 (Ruch & Proyer, 2009; α ≥ .86) and the Experiences in Close Relationships Questionnaire (Neumann, Rohmann, & Bierhoff, 2008; α ≥ .87). Path Analyses showed that the fear of being laughed at was robustly associated with anxiety and avoidance (β ≤ .44) while gelotophilia and katagelasticism also accounted for avoiding intimacy (|β|s ≤ .17). Using the type approach, gelotophobia accounted for differences in the four attachment styles (partial η² = .17) and was highest among fearful-avoidant participants. This study extends our knowledge on the role of how people deal with ridicule and being laughed at in the romantic context by testing its relation with internal models of experiencing and behaving in close relationships. The theoretical status of the variables and methodological extensions (e.g., studying couples) for future research are discussed.
... In relationships where the bonds are extremely strong, the affection that the entrepreneur has for his or her venture may lead to an overly optimistic view of the venture. This view makes the entrepreneur prone to ignore the venture's faults (Cardon et al., 2005b;Swami et al., 2009;Fletcher and Kerr, 2010). ...
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This paper investigates why and how founding entrepreneurs bond with their ventures. We develop and test theory about the nature of bonding in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of 42 subjects (21 entrepreneurs and 21 parents). We find that entrepreneurs and parents show similar signs of affective bonding, that self-confidence plays a role in bonding style, and that the degree to which entrepreneurs include their ventures in the self and to which parents include their child in the self influences their ability to make critical assessments. Our findings suggest that bonding is similar for entrepreneurs and parents and that venture stimuli influence reward systems, self-regulatory functions, and mental factors that are associated with judgment.
... For example, the ludus love style correlates with, among other things, impulsivity (Mallandain and Davies 1994); sensation seeking (Richardson, Medvin, and Hammock 1988); sexual permissiveness (Bailey, Hendrick, and Hendrick 1987); low partner engagement (Frey and Hojjat 1998); low neuroticism and agreeableness in men (White, Hendrick, and Hendrick 2004); extraversion and psychoticism (Davies 1996); low relationship satisfaction, sociosexual orientation, and the absence of a love-is-blind bias (that is, ascribing greater psychical attractiveness to one's partner than to oneself) (Swami, Stieger et al. 2009; see also Vedes et al. 2016); and the "dark triad" variables of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy (Jonason and Kavanagh 2010). Examples of traits typically associated with ludus are inconsiderateness, secrecy, dishonesty, selfishness, danger, and immaturity (Taraban and Hendrick 1995). ...
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Adult playfulness contributes to well-functioning romantic relationships. We study the association between playfulness (global and four facets; i.e., Other-directed, Lighthearted, Intellectual, and Whimsical) and six specific attitudes towards love-the love styles of Eros, Ludus, Storge, Pragma, Mania and Agape. Further, we argue that those high in Ludus (i.e., ludic lover; being primarily interested satisfying own pleasures and low investment in the relationship) should be differentiated from the playful lover (i.e., using playfulness to support the relationship). Seventy-seven heterosexual couples completed self-ratings for love styles and a checklist for playful behaviors (Playful Love Checklist; PLC) in romantic relationships and self- and partner-ratings for playfulness. Analyses of partner similarity and self-other agreement showed robust associations between partners and convergence between the self-partner view in playfulness. For the love styles, there were numerically stronger relations in the self-ratings for the women. Overall, the strongest associations were found for Other-directed playfulness (and global playfulness in the women) and Eros. The PLC explained the largest portion of variance (30/35% in females/males) in self-ratings of playfulness. This suggests that the current conceptualizations of playfulness have little overlap with the ludic lover, but, as expected, show good convergence with potential relationship-strengthening positive behaviors (the core of a playful lover). Men and women high in Eros rated their partner high in global, Other-directed and Intellectual playfulness. Greater partner-ratings in playfulness were negatively associated with Pragma. The analysis of self- and partner ratings contributes to the understanding of the association between playfulness and love styles.
... Przeszacowywanie fizycznej atrakcyjności partnera (względem obiektywnej lub wlitsnej atrakcyjności) jest określane jako efekt ,,miłość jest ślepa" (lovr,is-blind effect; Swami i in., żOO7). Dotychczasowe badania wykaza|y, ;t, rrasilenie tego efektu koreluje z podwyższoną satysfakcją z relacji, rll t ymnością, miłością romantyczną typu eros, a także z większą zazdro-iicii1o partnera(Swami i in.,2009; Swami iin.,2012). ...
... Illusions are not restricted to the self but are often extended to close others. Such positive views also occur when people rate their partners, children or friends (e.g., Swami, Stieger, Haubner, Voracek, & Furnham, 2009). Such relationship biases seem unrelated to relationship quality and even single people hold illusions about future relationships (Fowers, Lyons, Montel, & Shaked, 2001). ...
Chapter
This chapter addresses the controversial question of whether happy minds gain happiness by cultivating positive illusions, that is, views of self that exaggerate one’s good qualities and degree of control over life and that involve unrealistically optimistic outlooks. Much evidence indicates that positive illusions contribute to well-being, but there are limits and contrary findings, and it is not viable to claim that engaging in endless rounds of self-flattering self-deception is a reliable guide to happiness. Illusions do confer benefits, including self-fulfilling prophecies and interpersonal appeal. We contrast two theories: a direct route by which self-deception makes one happy, and an indirect route by which positive illusions contribute to pragmatic, objective benefits, which in turn increase happiness. The evidence is mixed as to which route is more relevant. We note some negative effects of positive illusions, such as when they reduce effort and achievement.
... Aunque el ajuste diádico, la satisfacción y la durabilidad de la relación no requieren que el sesgo del engrandecimiento marital esté destacado, se observa que la presencia del mismo los facilita (Moral, 2008a;O'Rourke y Cappeliez, 2003a). Se considera que el engrandecimiento forma parte del enamoramiento o amor hacia la pareja (Gagné y Lydon, 2004;Swami et al., 2009), ya sea que la pareja se encuentre en una fase inicial de amor pasional, o en una fase de compromiso amoroso (Díaz-Loving y Rivera-Aragón, 2010). ...
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