Does perceived mismatch in attractiveness between members of a romantic couple activate mating-motivated perception?




Joordens, Chantele

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Equitable romantic relationships are relationships in which partners perceive that they are giving benefits to their partner that equal the benefits they receive from their partner (e.g., Walster, Traupmann, & Walster, 1978), and such relationships promote commitment (Rusbult, 1980). But do equity considerations influence observers’ impressions of a romantic couple? In the present study, I tested this possibility by examining observers’ impressions of romantic partners who were mismatched in physical attractiveness (i.e., one partner will be more physically attractive than the other). In this situation, heterosexual observers instinctually categorize the opposite-sex member of the couple as a potential mate and the same-sex member of the couple as a competitor for the potential mate’s affection (e.g., Buss & Dedden, 1990; Fisher & Cox, 2009). Furthermore, observers also conclude that a potential mate who is more attractive than his or her current partner (i.e., the competitor) is not committed to his or her current relationship (Stinson & Reddoch, unpublished data). Thus, when evaluating a romantic couple, I hypothesize that observers’ will demonstrate mating-motivated biased perceptions of potential mates and competitors when the mate is more attractive than the competitor, because such more-attractive potential mates will be perceived as romantically “available.” Participants viewed photos of dating couples who matched in attractiveness, or viewed photos of dating couples where the mate was more attractive or less attractive than the competitor. Participants then rated the potential mates’ and competitors’ status-resources (SR; Fletcher et al., 1999). Results supported my theory of mating-motivated person-perception: Observers derogated the SRs of competitors who were paired with a more attractive (and romantically available) potential mate.



matching, attractiveness, poaching, mismatch, mating-motivation, perception