Though power may be “the ultimate aphrodisiac,” being the underdog could make others view you as being more physically attractive.
“Despite theory and research suggesting a ubiquitous attraction to winners, we propose that people are, at times, attracted to disadvantage,” Kenneth S. Michniewicz and Joseph A. Vandello of the University of South Florida explained in their study, which was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
For their study, 82 single male and female college students in the United States viewed a mock job application for a middle-school teacher and were then shown a photograph of the applicant’s face. The female participants viewed the job application of a man, while the male participants viewed the job application of a woman.
When the participants were told the applicant had a higher chance of obtaining the job, they rated the applicant as a more desirable dating partner — but only when the applicant was personally responsible for his or her success.
In contrast, participants who were informed the job applicant had a lower chance of obtaining the job because of circumstances outside his or her control tended to rate the disadvantaged applicant as more physically attractive and personally desirable. Participants rated job applicants who were likely to obtain the job thanks to a friend as less attractive.
“Particularly striking is that a target’s relative advantage or disadvantage influenced judgments of physical attractiveness despite the fact that all participants viewed the same photos, suggesting that the circumstances preceding exposure to the photographs adjusted participants’ assessment of the physical features of the person within the photograph,” Michniewicz and Vandello noted.
The study suggests that notions of fairness play a role in people’s judgment of potential dating partners. Those of high status only seem more desirable if they are personally responsible for their success. Meanwhile, those who owe their high status to another person are seen as both less desirable and less attractive than those who are unfairly disadvantaged.
However, it is unclear whether the study’s findings extend to other demographic groups, such as older adults, or to other cultures. Nevertheless, the study adds to the understanding of human attraction.
“Despite research documenting the powerful interpersonal draw of advantage, success, and status, possessing a disadvantage may at times work to one’s benefit,” Michniewicz and Vandello concluded.
Originally published on PsyPost
[Businesswoman with pen via Shutterstock]