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Through rose-tinted spectacles: Relationship satisfaction and representations of partner’s facial attractiveness


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We investigated individuals’ representations of their partners’ facial appearance as a possible contributory factor to relationship maintenance. Couples completed measures assessing their attitudes to their relationship and their partner, and were photographed. These photographs were manipulated to increase or decrease facial attractiveness. Participants were asked to select the veridical image of their partner from a seven image array (three less attractive than the original, the veridical image, and three more attractive than the original). Individuals who rated their relationships positively were more likely to select images of their partners that had been made artificially more attractive as being the veridical images. Individuals dissatisfied with their relationship showed the opposite effect. When participants were analysed independently by sex, these relationships were only present for female participants. Familiar celebrity faces manipulated in the same way were perceived accurately. Implications of these findings for the maintenance of relationships and theories of face perception are discussed.
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Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 5(2007)1–4, 169–181
DOI: 10.1556/JEP.2007.1021
1789–2082 © Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest
Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol
Abstract. We investigated individuals’ representations of their partners’ facial appearance as a
possible contributory factor to relationship maintenance. Couples completed measures assessing
their attitudes to their relationship and their partner, and were photographed. These photographs
were manipulated to increase or decrease facial attractiveness. Participants were asked to select
the veridical image of their partner from a seven image array (three less attractive than the
original, the veridical image, and three more attractive than the original). Individuals who rated
their relationships positively were more likely to select images of their partners that had been
made artificially more attractive as being the veridical images. Individuals dissatisfied with their
relationship showed the opposite effect. When participants were analysed independently by sex,
these relationships were only present for female participants. Familiar celebrity faces manipulated
in the same way were perceived accurately. Implications of these findings for the maintenance of
relationships and theories of face perception are discussed.
Keywords: facial attractiveness, close relationships, positive illusions, face perception
Humans are, largely, a pair-bonded species in which partnerships often last many
years. The majority of people successfully manage to maintain mutually satisfying
relationships in which to successfully raise offspring. Although there has been
considerable research into the physical traits that attract one person to another (see
GANGESTAD and SCHEYD 2005, for review) and work investigating factors that may
* Corresponding author: IAN S. PENTON-VOAK, Department of Experimental Psychology,
University of Bristol, BS8 1TU Bristol, UK. Phone: +44 117 9288667, E-mail: I.S.Penton-
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encourage individuals to look outside the pair-bond for extra-pair or short-term
partners (e.g. GANGESTAD et al. 2005), there is perhaps less research from an
evolutionary perspective into the proximate mechanisms that keep people together
in successful relationships. As the maintenance of sexual relationships in a pair
bonded species with heavy biparental investment has clear fitness implications, this
topic should represent a de facto concern of any evolutionary approach to rela-
tionships. In this paper, we investigate the possibility that individuals in sexual
relationships physically idealise their partners in terms of their facial attractiveness.
People in the throes of romantic love often appear to view their partners as
more beautiful, more intelligent, and more desirable than others perhaps might think
realistic. This phenomenon has been well studied by social psychologists, and
although this work has not been conducted or interpreted within an explicitly
evolutionary context, it seems plausible that such idealisation may be a proximate
mechanism which serves to maintain the pair-bond, and hence the adaptive outcome
of ensuring biparental care for offspring. Although it may intuitively appear that
having a realistic view of one’s partner might serve one’s relationship best over the
longer term (because knowing what can realistically be expected from a partner can
potentially avoid disappointments), the social psychological research overwhel-
mingly suggests that viewing one’s partner realistically can have disadvantages. In
fact, having an idealised view or “positive illusions” (in which intimates’
perceptions of their partner are more positive than their partners’ perceptions of
themselves) of one’s partner is linked to increased satisfaction and happiness
(MURRAY et al. 1996a; see GAGNÉ and LYDON 2004 for a review of biases within
These positive illusions have been empirically demonstrated using survey-
based studies. Indeed, Murray and colleagues have found considerable support for
the benefits of positive illusions in couples; idealisation of one’s partner predicts
greater relationship satisfaction, love, lust, and less ambivalence towards a partner
(MURRAY et al. 1996a, b; MURRAY and HOLMES 1997). It would also appear that
they have both a self-fulfilling prophecy effect and serve a relationship maintenance
function by acting as a buffer against relationship conflict and adversity. Idealisers
are more likely than non-idealisers to assume that their partner’s motives in a
conflict situation are pro-relationship and that he or she is generally well-meaning
(MURRAY and HOLMES 1997). Relationship satisfaction appears to be associated
with idealistic, rather than realistic, perceptions of one’s partner. MURRAY et al.’s
(1996a) procedure investigates partner idealisation in terms of questionnaire
responses outlining personality attributes. The task for participants involves rating
their partner on the extent to which he or she is “kind”, “intelligent”, “moody” and
“lazy”, to name but a few traits included in the measure. Especially interesting from
an evolutionary perspective is the finding that women idealise their partners more
often than men, whose idealisation of partners is moderated by relationship
commitment (GAGNÉ and LYDON 2003). As, by and large, women provide more
obligate parental investment than men, relationship protection mechanisms may be
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stronger in women than men to reduce the likelihood of a potentially costly
relationship termination. Biases in social perception are hypothesised to serve
functional purposes in many cases, and may vary between sexes when the
cost/benefit function varies between men and women (HASELTON and FUNDER
The present study attempts to investigate a novel type of idealisation by
constructing images of partners varying in attractiveness using computer graphic
techniques. Unlike previous approaches to idealisation, which have largely relied on
attitudinal measures, we investigated whether intimates idealise their partners’
physical attributes, i.e. do satisfied couples see their romantic partner as being
closer in face shape to an attractive ideal than they really are? As such ideals of
facial attractiveness have been suggested to reflect underlying biological quality
biased perceptions of romantic partners may reduce both the perceived costs of
staying with one partner in the face of competition from higher quality alternatives,
and the benefits of searching for extra-pair mating opportunities. Such a mechanism
may be especially important in the light of increasing evidence that individuals
modulate their attractiveness judgements in terms of their own ‘mate value’. Low
‘mate value’ individuals find potential partners without cues to high phenotypic
quality more attractive than potential partners who posses such cues (PENTON-
VOAK et al. 2003; LITTLE et al. 2001)
Those committed to a close relationship also devalue attractive alternatives,
seeing potential partners outside the pair bond as less desirable (in terms of
personality attributions and physical characteristics) than they may appear to others
generally (JOHNSON and RUSBULT 1989). This commitment-devaluation effect
could be, like the idealisation of one’s partner, a relationship maintenance response
serving to keep romantic attention focused on the current partner. Moreover,
attractive alternatives need not be realistically available to elicit devaluation; highly
committed individuals in dating couples rated models from magazine adverts as less
physically attractive than others (SIMPSON et al. 1990). There is also some evidence
that individuals less committed to a current relationship may up-rate the
attractiveness of alternatives, presumably to facilitate the replacement of a less
satisfactory partner (BAZZINI and SCHAFFER 1999; but see LYDON et al. 2003). A
further possibility is that relationship satisfaction leads to general positive affect
which may result in both partner and non-partner images being idealised. We
investigated these possibilities using the same techniques as we used to study
partner idealisation, by employing manipulated images of unavailable, yet familiar,
faces (TV celebrities; public figures). These well known images fulfil the
requirement of being familiar to all participants while not being in a sexual
relationship with any of the participants.
Given current knowledge of face recognition, could it be possible that our
perceptual representations of romantic partners or other familiar faces could be
biased by our current attitudes to our relationship? As faces become familiar, we
become more acutely sensitive to the position of internal features. For example,
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O’DONNELL and BRUCE (2001) showed that sensitivity to changes in eye position in
facial images increased with their familiarity. BONNER et al. (2003) demonstrated
that the increased salience of internal features was present whether the faces were
learned from static images or videotape, suggesting that the source of our
representation does not significantly influence our later recognition.
Using psychophysical techniques, GE et al. (2003) showed that Chinese
participants were extremely sensitive to changes in interocular distance in a portrait
of Chairman Mao. In a task in which they had to determine from memory whether a
presented picture of Mao had been altered or was the original, their memory
threshold judgements approached the perceptual discrimination capabilities of East
Asian and Caucasian participants (who were less familiar with the image). This
suggests that face memory is highly accurate, and perhaps limited only by the
capabilities of our visual system. BRÉDART and DEVUE (2006) extended this finding
beyond iconic single images (such as the Mao portrait) to people who were
personally known to the participants (work colleagues), and replicated this high
fidelity for memory of familiar faces.
As memory for familiar faces is so robust, it may appear futile to predict biases
in our perceptions of loved one’s face shapes. The memory findings above,
however, are somewhat contradicted by other well-known effects found in face
recognition. The position of a face in a multidimensional space framework (a
‘facespace’, VALENTINE 1991) elegantly explains well-known caricature effects
found in the face recognition literature: Caricatures are recognised more accurately
than veridical images (e.g. LEE et al. 2000). It seems that despite our apparent
sensitivity to arbitrary changes in the internal features of familiar faces, images
manipulated in socially meaningful directions from a veridical representation (such
as caricatures, which exaggerate the difference between a given face and the
population average, easing recognition) may go unnoticed, or even be mistaken for
the veridical image.
In the current study, computer graphic techniques were employed to produce
three progressively more attractive images and three progressively less attractive
images of both members of a long-term relationship, and, additionally, familiar
faces from public life in the UK. If the presence of positive illusions is related to
relationship satisfaction, an idealisation-satisfaction hypothesis predicts positive
associations between measures of satisfaction and physical idealisation (defined as
choosing a photograph that depicts a more attractive version of their partner as the
veridical image from an array). Similarly, the devaluation-satisfaction hypothesis
predicts that participants in satisfying relationships may devalue attractive
alternatives as operationalised by choosing a less attractive morphed image of such
an alternative (i.e. not idealising the appearance of familiar celebrity faces).
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Fourteen heterosexual couples were recruited using press advertisements to take
part in an experiment investigating personal relationships within couples as part of a
wider research project into success and failure in relationships. A diverse sample
responded (mean age: 39 years, SD 18 years; mean relationship length of 144
months). Materials
After signing an informed consent and an image consent form, each participant was
photographed and completed MURRAY et al. (1996b) Positive Illusions Measure.
This measure consists of several subscales, three of which are directly relevant to
satisfaction with both a responder’s relationship and partner. Firstly, the ‘Thinking
about my relationship’ subscale is a 53-item scale assessing attitudes towards an
individual’s current relationship (e.g. “I feel extremely attached to my partner”; “I
often feel resentful toward my partner”). Participants responded using a 9-point
scale (1 = ‘not true at all’ through 9 = ‘completely true’). Secondly, the
‘Interpersonal Qualities Scale’ (MURRAY et al. 1996a) is a 20-item adjective
checklist assessing attitudes towards the current partner (e.g. warm, thoughtless,
moody, witty). Participants rated how well each trait described the partner using a
9-point scale (1 = ‘not at all characteristic’ through 9 = ‘completely characteristic’).
The third subscale is a 15-item measure assessing attitudes to the future of the
current relationship (e.g. “Our relationship is leading to dissolution or divorce”;
“My partner and I are able to share our innermost feelings with one another”).
Participants responded using a 9-point scale (1 = ‘much less likely to occur in my
relationship than in most’ through 9 = ‘much more likely to occur in my
relationship than in most’). These three sub-measures will be subsequently be
referred to as ‘Thinking About My Relationship’, ‘Thinking About My Partner’ and
‘The Future of My Relationship’ measures.
Each participant was photographed in a neutral expression against a plain
background. These photographs were manipulated to produce seven stimuli with
varying levels of attractiveness: three increasingly less attractive than the original,
the veridical image, and three increasingly more attractive than the original
(Figure 1).
These transforms were performed using standard digital caricaturing
techniques. Digital composite male and female average faces were constructed from
samples of 70 undergraduate faces of each sex. Each individual face is delineated
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Figure 1. Examples of the stimuli used in the study. The veridical female (top) and male (bottom) images are in the centre. Images to the
right have been manipulated to increase in attractiveness, while those to the left decrease
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(marked up) with 174 control points indicating the positions of easily identifiable
features (face outlines, eyes, nostrils, lips, etc.). From the delineation data of all the
faces of each sex, the average position of each feature point on the face can be
calculated. This involves calculating the mean position of each of the delineation
points across the faces in the set that is being averaged: The mean XY position of
each of the 174 feature points defines the average face shape of the set. Similar
male and female ‘attractive’ averages were constructed from 20 faces of models of
each sex, collected from internet photo sites.
The shape differences between the ‘undergraduate’ and ‘attractive’ averages
were used to transform the original image of the participants either toward or away
from the attractive face shape. The difference between each equivalent delineation
point on the ‘undergraduate’ and ‘attractive’ face shapes can be expressed as a two
dimensional vector. To construct more ‘attractive’ face shapes, every feature point
on a given face can be moved a prescribed distance along the correspondent vector
that expresses the difference between the ‘undergraduate’ and ‘attractive’ average
shapes. Less attractive face shapes can be constructed by moving in the opposite
direction along this vector. The colour information from the original face shape is
now rendered into the ‘attractive’ or ‘less attractive’ face shapes to complete the
images (see ROWLAND and PERRETT 1995 for technical details).
Two to three weeks following photography, participants were presented with
printed versions of the seven stimuli constructed from their own partner’s
photograph, shuffled into random order (their partners were not present during this
testing session). They were instructed to select the veridical image of their partner
from the seven. Participants were allowed to handle the images and compare them
to one another. Responses were coded from –3 (selection of the least attractive
face), through 0 (selection of the veridical face) to +3 (selection of the most
attractive face).
Each participant was then presented with five image arrays constructed from
images of well known British public figures and celebrities manipulated in the same
manner as the participant photographs, and once again asked to select the veridical
image. Participants saw celebrities of the opposite sex to themselves. Responses
were coded in the same way as those made to partner’s images. One participant
failed to complete this task. Finally, all participants were debriefed and dismissed.
Participants displayed a significant tendency to idealise their partners, with a mean
score of 0.71 on a scale of –3 to 3, with 0 representing the veridical image, negative
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numbers the less attractive morphs, and positive numbers the more attractive
morphs (S.E. = 0.24; one-sample t-test against a test value of 0, t27 = 2.97, p < 0.01).
Overall, participants selected an image of their partner that had been manipulated to
have increased attractiveness relative to the veridical image. No such bias was
present in judgements of the familiar celebrity faces (mean score = –0.13; S.E. =
0.16; t26= –.833; NS). Participants idealised their partner’s faces significantly more
than they idealised the celebrity faces (t27 = 3.42, p < 0.01)
Scores on each of the three relationship measures (attitudes to current
relationship; attitudes to partner; attitudes to future of current relationship) were
calculated and correlated (Spearman’s r) with the attractiveness level of the face
chosen as the veridical representation of the participant’s partner, and the mean
response given as the veridical representation of the familiar celebrity faces (Table
1). Across the whole sample satisfaction on two of the three measures (attitudes to
partner, attitudes to relationship) were positively correlated with the amount of
idealisation (Table 1, column 1). There were no significant relationships between
any measure of relationship satisfaction and selection of the celebrity faces (Table
1, column 2).
Table 1. Spearman’s correlations (each cell shows rs and N) between the three relationship
measures and extent of idealisation of partner and familiar other (celebrity) faces
Partner idealisation Familiar other idealisation
Attitudes to current relationship .41*
28 .14
Attitudes to partner .49**
28 .02
Attitudes to future of current relationship .27
27 –.05
* p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01.
One potential criticism of work with dyads such as this is that it is not entirely
clear whether the sample size is the number of participants (in our case, 28) or the
number of dyads (14 in our study). Potentially, there is the possibility of pseudo-
replication if the number of participants is used where the number of dyads is more
appropriate. This is especially true if scores within dyads are correlated. In our
sample, there was no significant correlation between the amount of physical
idealisation that each partner of a dyad demonstrated (r = .18, N = 14, NS).
Nonetheless, a conservative way of overcoming this potential criticism when
members of a dyad are distinguishable (for example, by sex) is to analyse each
distinguishable group individually. In our sample, separate one sample t-tests of
This non-independence problem also precludes using ANOVA to analyse the results in
this study; A 2 (sex of participant) x 2 (face type: celebrity v. partner) mixed design with relation-
ship measures as covariates is arguably not appropriate (KENNY 1995).
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distinguishable dyadic members (males and females) suggested that this tendency to
idealise partners may be stronger in female than male participants. Although
women significantly idealise their male partners (mean idealisation = 0.79, t13 =
2.24, p < 0.05), male participants do not significantly idealise their female partners
(mean idealisation = 0.64, t13 = 1.88, NS). There was, however, no difference
between the level of idealisation between male and female participants (t26 = 0.292,
NS). Correlational analyses indicate significant positive correlations between two
out of three relationship satisfaction measures in female participants, but no
significant relationships in male participants (Table 2; Figure 2).
Figure 2. Scatter plots showing relationship between the ‘Thinking about my partner’ subscale
and idealisation for all participants (top); male participants (bottom left) and female participants
(bottom right). Images increase in attractiveness from –3 to 3; 0 is the veridical. Plots for the
‘Thinking about my relationship measure’ are similar
'Thinking About My Partner' measure
Attitude to partner (high = +ve attitude)
Im a
e selected
Rs = 0.49, p < .01, N = 28
Male Participants
Attitude to Partner (high = +ve
Image selected
Rs = 0.36, ns, N=14
Female Participants
ttitude to partner (high = +ve
Image selected
Rs = 0.72, p<.01, N=14
'Thinking About My Partner' measure
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Table 2. Spearman’s correlations (each cell shows rs and N) between the three relationship
measures and extent of idealisation of partner for male and female participants
Female participants:
idealisation Male participants:
Attitudes to current relationship .63*
14 .18
Attitudes to partner .72**
14 .36
Attitudes to future of current relationship .42
13 –.29
* p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01.
Participants reporting satisfaction with their current relationship and partner seemed
to hold a physical representation of their partner that was unrealistically favourable,
as evidenced by their choice of attractive manipulated faces as accurate
representations of their mate. Participants in unsatisfactory relationships showed the
opposite pattern: i.e. they picked an image of their partner that was somewhat less
attractive than the veridical image as the accurate representation. This is an
interesting finding, as most studies of partner idealisation concentrate on positive
bias or accuracy, rather than derogation within partnerships (GAGNÉ and LYDON
2004). Furthermore, although there is no significant sex difference in the absolute
amount of idealisation shown by men and women, the correlations indicate that
these effects are stronger in female than male participants, where they fail to reach
significance in our sample. These sex differences are analogous to studies of
attitudinal measures of idealisation (e.g. GAGNÉ and LYDON 2003).
No measure of relationship satisfaction predicted the idealisation (or
otherwise) of famous faces, which were perceived accurately. The lack of any
devaluation or idealisation of these familiar images also suggests that the partner
idealisation found is not an artefact of a generally elevated affective state which
may accompany romantic love – ‘rose tinted glasses’ are worn only for partners in
this study. These findings support the idealisation-satisfaction hypothesis, but
provide no evidence consistent with the devaluation-satisfaction hypothesis. The
effects reported appear target specific.
Idealisation of a partner’s physical appearance has been demonstrated before
with questionnaire measures and ratings of physical attractiveness, but our data
indicate that this phenomenon may result from the visual representation of the
partner in memory being biased towards shared standards of attractiveness (which
have been argued to reflect biological quality) rather than idiosyncratic taste. So, in
one sense beauty is in the mind of the beholder, owing to biased social perceptions
and/or representations.
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Our findings also represent a novel finding in the face recognition literature.
Despite high fidelity of memory for faces generally (GE et al. 2003), participants in
successful relationships do not select the veridical image of their partner from an
array in which facial features have been manipulated to vary in attractiveness, but
pick a more attractive image (with the converse applying to participants in
unsuccessful relationships). As attractiveness is often associated with averageness
(e.g. LANGLOIS et al. 1990), this finding may at first glance appear to be a slightly
unusual anti-caricature effect for familiar faces: participants appear to be picking
more average (i.e. more attractive) faces as veridical images of their partners (note
that a standard caricature effect would typically be expected in this situation). Our
manipulation, however, did not systematically alter averageness. Rather, our
technique explicitly alters the characteristics that define the shape differences
between ‘average’ (undergraduate) and ‘highly attractive’ (model) populations
suggesting that our finding is not best defined as an anti-caricature effect.
The idealisation of a partner’s trait attributes (e.g. kindness, trustworthiness,
etc.) may serve as a buffer against relationship adversity in two ways: a) by
influencing individuals to interpret potentially negative partner behaviour as
situational, as opposed to dispositional; b) by influencing a more positive
interpretation of relationship problems than might be the case otherwise. Given the
importance of facial attractiveness in human mate choice (RHODES 2005;
GANGESTAD and SNEYD 2006) and willingness to continue relationships (e.g.
BERSCHEID et al. 1971), the biases in social perception reported here may also serve
functional purposes in relationship maintenance. Idealisation or denigration of a
partner’s physical attractiveness may be a psychological mechanism that promotes
adaptive behaviour such as continued investment of resources in successful
relationships or a motivation to terminate unsuccessful relationships. A positive
representation of a partner’s attractiveness may motivate an individual to invest
more resources into a relationship as the current partner’s perceived mate value is
high. Investment in a successful relationship with an overvalued partner may
outweigh potential costs of mate replacement (e.g. rejecting current mate; mate
search). Conversely, given dissatisfaction with an ongoing relationship, a negative
representation of their physical attractiveness may serve to motivate the person to
begin to look outside the current pair bond for potential replacement mates.
In the current study, the relationship between relationship satisfaction and
physical idealisation is present in women but not in men, although given the
relatively low sample size this finding should be treated with caution – with a larger
sample size, it seems likely that significant idealisation would be found in both
sexes, albeit in a weaker form in men. If perception of partner’s facial attractiveness
contributes to the maintenance or termination of relationships, this sex difference
fits well with hypotheses derived from the existence of sex differences in parental
investment (TRIVERS 1972). From this evolutionary theoretical perspective, women
have more to gain from successful relationships and more to lose from unsuccessful
relationships than men as physiological constraints rather than partner number limit
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female reproductive success. For example, while extra-pair mating may offer
benefits to both sexes in terms of increased offspring number for men and the
obtainment of both direct (material) and indirect (genetic) benefits for women, the
costs of detection differ for men and women. Sanctions following discovered
adultery are harsher for women than for men both in terms of cross-culturally stable
societal norms (WILSON and DALY 1992) and the likely response of the partner
(men and women may even have evolved differences in jealousy responses in this
domain; BUSS et al. 1992). The sex differences we have found in the current study
also correspond well with error management theory, which can predict differing
cost-benefit payoffs across the sexes. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that our
representations of the appearance of romantic partners are biased by our satisfaction
with both our relationship and the partner themselves, and that these biases are
stronger in female than male members of partnerships.
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... By marking up feature points on the target faces that correspond to identical points on the prototype faces, each original image was transformed for shape in 3.33% increments (up to 10%) towards a more dominant or submissive face. This resulted in seven images for each face identity: three increasingly dominant morphs, the original image, and three increasingly submissive morphs (for a similar procedure, see Epley & Whitchurch, 2008;Penton-Voak et al., 2007;Zell & Balcetis, 2012). For reasons of simplicity, we re-labelled the face continuum using a scale from -100% (most dominant) to +100% (most submissive) (see Figure 1). ...
... For this, a series of seven images (the original image as well as three dominant and three submissive Running Head: POWER AND DOMINANCE 13 morphs) was displayed for each facial identity in a scattered random order across the screen and devoid of any information about the target's job title. Participants were instructed to identify the original image of each target's face seen previously (see Epley & Whitchurch, 2008;Penton-Voak et al., 2007;Zell & Balcetis, 2012 for a similar procedure). After the recognition task, participants were asked to choose from a list the job title that corresponds to each face which served as manipulation and attention check. ...
... In the recall phase, they then completed a face recognition task in which the seven images of the target person (original image, dominant and submissive morphs) were shown together with the person's name and job title. Participants were instructed to choose the image which they believed would depict the real person out of an array of stimuli (display resolution: 200 x 200 pixels), presented in a scattered, random order across the screen (for a similar procedure, see Epley & Whitchurch, 2008;Penton-Voak et al., 2007;Zell & Balcetis, 2012). It was encouraged to make a decision within 30 s and to guess if the answer was unknown. ...
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A great deal of research has shown that dominant-looking faces are afforded power. In this research, we tested the reverse link. As such, we examined whether knowledge of a target’s power would lead to a dominance bias in face perception. Five studies were conducted by applying face morphing techniques to both controlled facial stimuli and faces of powerholders in the real world. Results showed that faces of powerholders were misrecollected (Studies 1A and 1B) and misperceived (Studies 3A and 3B) as more dominant-looking than their powerless counterparts. In addition, their faces were misrecollected as more prototypically dominant in physical appearance than they actually were (Studies 1A, 1B, and 2). Furthermore, enhanced facial dominance affected social inferences, with evaluations such as competence and attractiveness being sensitive to the gender of the target person (Study 3B). Implications for research on power and face perception are discussed.
... Healthy marriages and long-term relationships persist, in part, through confidentially endorsed idealizations. According to some studies, individuals greatly exaggerate the positive qualities of their romantic partners (Penton-Voak et al. 2007). Even starryeyed optimists can concede that these people are not telling the whole truth. ...
... Some studies have found that people claim that their partner is more attractive relative to the assessments of others (Penton-Voak et al. 2007;Swami et al. 2007). One study found that married people tend to be unaware of any faults in their partner 9 More fully: reasons-responsive mechanisms are composed of computational processes that, in certain situations (such as these Buridan's Ass scenarios), bias decision-making toward one option from a number of practically indiscriminable options. ...
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Confabulation is typically understood to be dysfunctional. But this understanding neglects the phenomenon's potential benefits. In fact, we think that the benefits of non-clinical confabulation provide a better foundation for a general account of confabulation. In this paper, we start from these benefits to develop a social teleological account of confabulation. Central to our account is the idea that confabulation manifests a kind of willful ignorance. By understanding confabulation in this way, we can provide principled explanations for the difference between clinical and non-clinical cases of confabulation and the extent to which confabulation is rational.
... For example, there is evidence that global, relationship-relevant motivational factors impact intimates' basic cognitive-perceptual responding. Thus, individuals who are committed to their relationship evaluate their partnerincluding his or her physical attributesin an idealized manner (i.e., more positively than the partner evaluates himself or herself or is evaluated by others: Murray, Holmes, & Griffin, 1996;Penton-Voak, Rowe, & Williams, 2007;Swami, Waters, & Furnham, 2010). Complementarily, they attend less to (Maner, Gailliot, & Miller, 2009;Miller, 1997) or derogate (Lydon, Fitzsimons, & Naidoo, 2003) tempting alternative partners, and this can manifest even at a basic perceptual level (e.g., in their memory representation of an alternative partner's face, as in Karremans, Dotsch, & Corneille, 2011). ...
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A trustworthy appearance is regarded as a marker of a globally positive personality and, thus, evokes a host of benevolent responses from perceivers. Nevertheless, it is yet to be determined whether the reverse is also true, that is, whether social targets who evoke unambiguously benign motivations in perceivers are regarded as possessing a more trustworthy appearance (cf. Oosterhof and Todorov in Emotion 9:128–133, 2008). To this end, elderly long-term married couples completed measures of partner-directed altruistic motivation, accommodative behaviors, marital satisfaction, and trust in the partner. They also completed a face-processing task involving spousal and stranger faces 1 year later. Higher motivation to prioritize a spouse’s well-being (but none of the other relationship functioning variables assessed) predicted perceiving one’s spouse’s emotionally neutral face as being more trustworthy-looking. Results are discussed in the context of the reciprocal relationship between higher-order motivational processes and basic perceptual mechanisms in shaping relational climates.
... Given the benefits of believing the best in one's partner, might a satisfied member of the relationship perceive their partner more favorably? When asked to pick their partners' actual faces out of a line-up, women who idealized their partner compared women who did not chose more attractive faces than their partner's actual face (Penton-Voak, Rowe, & Williams, 2007). Importantly, this perceptual bias was not present when selecting the correct photo from an array of celebrities about whom participants held positive attitudes. ...
Though people often believe their visual experiences reflect the objective state of the surrounding world, a wealth of recent evidence suggests that perceptions are systematically biased. We draw from contemporary research and supplement with real world anecdotes to suggest that two aspects of perception are subject to influence by states internal to perceivers themselves. We focus on the biases that arise from two difficult tasks faced by the visual system. First, visual information is often unclear and ambiguous; yet visual input must be categorized quickly and efficiently. Second, people can focus on only a subset of perceptual information at once, and as a result visual attention is necessarily directed at a subset of the surrounding world. We document ways in which expectations, desires, and fears help to resolve perceptual ambiguity and direct attention. Finally, we discuss the functional nature of visual biases and note potential consequences in important domains.
... Two facts indicate that the specificity of swimmers' preferences results from mere visual experience and not from emotional conditioning in which liking or loving someone can produce a preference for his/her appearance (Kniffin & Wilson, 2004;Penton-Voak, Rowe, & Williams, 2007). Firstly, few swimmers had a relative or partner who trained in swimming, they did not manifest a noticeably stronger preference for swimmer-like silhouettes than the remaining swimmers, and their exclusion from the analysis had virtually no influence on results. ...
Theoretical and empirical studies suggest that phenotypic averageness is a sign of an individual’s high biological quality. The averageness should therefore be preferred in mates. A condition for such preference is the knowledge of average phenotype in the population. It is envisaged that an individual develops a neural template of typical phenotype on the basis of perceptual experience with images of conspecifics and the template is then used in attractiveness assessments of potential partners. Regrettably, studies supporting this view are lacking. In the present study, adult male competitive swimmers and men who did not partake in swimming assessed the attractiveness of female silhouettes with proportions typical for swimmers or non-swimmers. Because swimmers see other swimmers relatively frequently, we hypothesize that they prefer swimmer-like female silhouettes more strongly than non-swimmers do. The analysis supports this hypothesis, suggesting that mere visual experience shapes a neural template of a silhouette, which subsequently serves as a reference for attractiveness evaluations.
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To investigate asymmetries in opposite-sex friends’ attractiveness and attraction, researchers approached, surveyed, and photographed 77 male-female dyads (friends as well as romantic couples) in a high-traffic lounging area. In this naturally-occurring sample, attraction between opposite-sex friends varied widely and was not mutual, whereas attraction between romantic partners was consistently strong and mutual. Contrary to expectation, men did not report more attraction on average to their opposite-sex friend than women, and naïve judges did not rate females in friendships as more attractive than males in friendships. However, both men and women rated their opposite-sex friends as more attractive than their friend rated him/herself and far more attractive than outside judges rated their friend, a pattern observed among dating partners as well. Researchers conclude that attraction in opposite-sex friends is common but not mutual; participants’ biased perceptions of their friend’s attractiveness suggests that both men and women befriend those whom they deem potential mates.
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A newer version of the Polish text which has been published (in somewhat shortened form) as two English-language papers: "Facial attractiveness: General patterns of facial preferences" and "Facial attractiveness: Variation, adaptiveness and consequences of facial preferences".
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Abstrakt: Atrakcyjność twarzy była przedmiotem rozważań już w starożytności, ale naukowe badania nad nią pochodzą głównie z ostatniego ćwierćwiecza. Badania te dowiodły, że istnieje szereg, często mierzalnych, własności twarzy, które wpływają atrakcyjności twarzy. Przeciętność proporcji oraz symetria twarzy są preferowane przypuszczalnie dlatego, że sygnalizują zdrowie genetyczne i wysoką tzw. stabilność rozwojową. Mężczyźni preferują silnie sfeminizowane twarze kobiet, ponieważ oznaczają one wysoki stosunek poziomu estrogenu do testosteronu, a zatem sprawność reprodukcyjną kobiety. Natomiast kobiety preferują umiarkowany stopień maskulinizacji twarzy mężczyzn, ponieważ znaczna maskulinizacja sygnalizuje wysoki poziom testosteronu, a zatem słabo wykształcone pro-rodzinne cechy osobowości. Z podobnych przyczyn mężczyźni preferują brak owłosienia twarzy kobiet, a kobiece preferencje dla zarostu twarzy mężczyzn są niejednolite. Czysta (tzn. pozbawiona brodawek itp.) skóra twarzy jest atrakcyjna u obu płci. Ponadto mężczyźni preferują u kobiet skórę jasną i gładką (tzn. bez zmarszczek). Korzystny wpływ na atrakcyjność twarzy ma też pozytywny wyraz twarzy. Wiele z wyżej wymienionych cech (przede wszystkim stan skóry i proporcje twarzy) wpływa na postrzegany wiek, a ten z kolei wpływa na atrakcyjność twarzy. Szczególnie mężczyźni silnie preferują młodo wyglądające twarze kobiet. Badania pokazują, że preferencje względem twarzy w dużej mierze są kryteriami rozpoznawania wartościowych, z reprodukcyjnego punktu widzenia, partnerów. Preferencje te mają zatem charakter adaptacji, choć w niektórych przypadkach istotną rolę mogą także odgrywać nie-adaptacyjne mechanizmy związane z ogólnymi sposobami funkcjonowania mózgu. W niniejszej pracy dużo miejsca poświęcono wewnątrz-i międzypopulacyjnej zmienności preferencji, związkowi pomiędzy atrakcyjnością twarzy a wartością partnerską, biologicznym i społecznym konsekwencjom atrakcyjności oraz wiarygodności adaptacyjnego rozumienia preferencji względem twarzy. Wyniki badań skłaniają do następujących wniosków: (1) Istnieje wiele czynników przyczyniających się do międzyosobniczej zmienności postrzegania atrakcyjności twarzy, np. wiek, płeć, jakość biologiczna, stan fizjologiczny, osobowość i sytuacja życiowa osoby oceniającej twarze, a także poprzednio oglądane twarze, podobieństwo pomiędzy ocenianą twarzą a twarzą sędziego, oraz znajomość właściciela twarzy i wiedza o nim. (2) Międzypopulacyjne podobieństwo w postrzeganiu atrakcyjności twarzy jest znaczne i ma podłoże zarówno biologiczne jak i kulturowe. (3) Osoby o atrakcyjnych twarzach mają więcej partnerów seksualnych, biorą ślub młodszym wieku i rzadziej pozostają starymi pannami / kawalerami. Z tych powodów mają oni większy sukces reprodukcyjny niż osoby nieatrakcyjne. (4) Atrakcyjność twarzy jest rzetelnym wskaźnikiem jakości biologicznej jej właściciela, np. odporności na pasożyty, sprawności fizycznej, sprawności reprodukcyjnej, długowieczności, inteligencji, zdrowia psychicznego, a także mniejszej liczby mutacji. (5) Całościowo, badania empiryczne potwierdzają tezę, że preferencje w odniesieniu do twarzy są biologicznymi adaptacjami, to znaczy, wykształciły się one na drodze ewolucji biologicznej, ponieważ pomagały w wyborze partnera o dobrych genach lub pożądanej osobowości. Słowa kluczowe: atrakcyjność twarzy, atrakcyjność fizyczna, preferencje estetyczne, twarz człowieka, piękno.
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In species with internal female fertilization, males risk both lowered paternity probability and investment in rival gametes if their mates have sexual contact with other males. Females of such species do not risk lowered maternity probability through partner infidelity, but they do risk the diversion of their mates' commitment and resources to rival females. Three studies tested the hypothesis that sex differences in jealousy emerged in humans as solutions to the respective adaptive problems faced by each sex. In Study 1, men and women selected which event would upset them more—a partner's sexual infidelity or emotional infidelity. Study 2 recorded physiological responses (heart rate, electrodermal response, corrugator supercilii contraction) while subjects imagined separately the two types of partner infidelity. Study 3 tested the effect of being in a committed sexual relationship on the activation of jealousy. All studies showed large sex differences, confirming hypothesized sex linkages in jealousy activation.
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Individuals committed to exclusive relationships often evaluate attractive, opposite-sex targets less favorably than do less committed individuals. This devaluative distortion of alternatives has been interpreted as relationship maintenance by exclusive daters. Two experiments evaluated an alternative hypothesis: Less committed individuals may more favorably evaluate attractive, other-sex targets because they are seeking a relationship. In Experiment 1, exclusive and nonexclusive daters imagined a scenario in which an attractive stranger showed interest in the participant (high threat/high opportunity) or in his or her best friend (low threat/low opportunity). In Experiment 2, exclusive and nonexclusive daters anticipated interacting with an attractive target who was either available/seeking a relationship (high threat/high opportunity) or unavailable for a relationship (low threat/low opportunity). As predicted, nonexclusive daters evaluated available targets more favorably than unavailable ones, showing clear evidence of relationship-seeking motives. However, exclusive daters showed little evidence of devaluing available targets in the interest of relationship maintenance.
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Everywhere the issue has been examined, people make discriminations about others’ physical attractiveness. Can human standards of physical attractiveness be understood through the lens of evolutionary biology? In the past decade, this question has guided much theoretical and empirical work. In this paper, we (a) outline the basic adaptationist approach that has guided the bulk of this work, (b) describe evolutionary models of signaling that have been applied to understand human physical attractiveness, and (c) discuss and evaluate specific lines of empirical research attempting to address the selective history of human standards of physical attractiveness. We also discuss ways evolutionary scientists have attempted to understand variability in standards of attractiveness across cultures as well as the ways current literature speaks to body modification in modern Western cultures. Though much work has been done, many fundamental questions remain unanswered.
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Humans are an intensely social species and therefore it is essential for our interpersonal judgments to be valid enough to help us to avoid enemies, form useful alliances and find suitable mates; flawed judgments can literally be fatal. An evolutionary perspective implies that humans ought to have developed sufficient skills at solving problems of interpersonal judgment, including gauging the personalities of others, to be useful for the basic tasks of survival and reproduction. Yet, the view to be derived from the large and influential bias-and-error literature of social psychology is decidedly different--the social mind seems riddled with fundamental design flaws. We will argue in this paper that flawed design is probably the least plausible explanation for the existence of so many errors. We present an evolutionarily based taxonomy of known bias effects that distinguishes between biases that are trivial or even artifactual and lead virtually nowhere, and those that have interesting implications and deserve further study. Finally, we present an evolutionary perspective that suggests that the ubiquity, automaticity, and success of interpersonal judgment, among other considerations, presents the possibility of a universal Personality Judgment Instinct. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
It is proposed that satisfying, stable relationships reflect intimates' ability to see imperfect relationships in somewhat idealized ways-to make a leap of faith. Both members of dating and married couples completed a measure of relationship illusions, tapping idealized perceptions of the partners' attributes, exaggerated perceptions of control, and unrealistic optimism. Results of concurrent analyses revealed that relationship illusions predicted greater satisfaction, love, and trust, and less conflict and ambivalence in both dating and marital relationships. A longitudinal follow-up of the dating sample revealed that relationships were more likely to persist the stronger individuals' initial illusions. Relationship illusions also predicted increases in later satisfaction but not vice versa. These results suggest that positive illusions capture a prospective sense of conviction or security that is not simply isomorphic with satisfaction.
Men take a proprietary view of women's sexuality and reproductive capacity. In this chapter, we (a) argue that sexually proprietary male psychologies are evolved solutions to the adaptive problems of male reproductive competition and potential misdirection of paternal investments in species with mistakable paternity; (b) describe the complex interrelated design of mating and paternal decision rules in some well -studied avian examples; (c) consider the peculiarities of the human species in this context; (d) characterize some features of human male sexual proprietariness, contrasting men's versus women's perspectives and actions; and (e) review some of the diverse consequences and manifestations of this ubiquitous male mindset. THE EVOLUTIONARY LOGIC OF MALE SEXUAL PROPRIETARINESS
Scientists and philosophers have searched for centuries for a parsimonious answer to the question of what constitutes beauty. We approached this problem from both an evolutionary and information-processing rationale and predicted that faces representing the average value of the population would be consistently judged as attractive. To evaluate this hypothesis, we digitized samples of male and female faces, mathematically averaged them, and had adults judge the attractiveness of both the individual faces and the computer-generated composite images. Both male (three samples) and female (three samples) composite faces were judged as more attractive than almost all the individual faces comprising the composites. A strong linear trend also revealed that the composite faces became more attractive as more faces were entered. These data showing that attractive faces are only average are consistent with evolutionary pressures that favor characteristics close to the mean of the population and with cognitive processes that favor prototypical category members.
This work tested the hypothesis that persons who are more committed to their relationships devalue potential alternative partners, especially attractive and threatening alternatives. In Study 1, a longitudinal study, perceived quality of alternatives decreased over time among stayers but increased for leavers. In Study 2, a computer dating service paradigm, more committed persons exhibited greatest devaluation of alternatives under conditions of high threat—when personally evaluating extremely attractive alternative partners. In Study 3, a simulation experiment, the tendency to reject and devalue alternatives was greater under conditions of high commitment. In all three studies, tendencies to devalue were more strongly linked to commitment than to satisfaction. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
In 2 studies, factors involved in the perception of attractiveness of opposite-sex persons were examined. Investigation 1 revealed that individuals involved in dating relationships, relative to those not involved in them, tend to perceive opposite-sex persons as less physically and sexually attractive. Investigation 2 revealed that this dating effect was not attributable to differences in physical attractiveness, self-esteem, empathy, self-monitoring, or altruism between individuals who were and those who were not involved in exclusive dating relationships. Moreover, both groups perceived young/same-sex and older/opposite-sex persons as equally attractive, suggesting that the effect is specific to young/opposite-sex persons. Results are discussed in terms of possible proximate and ultimate explanations underlying relationship maintenance processes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)