The friendship effect in judgments of physical attractiveness


Wirtz, D., Biswas-Diener, R., Diener, E., & Drogos, K.L. (2011). The friendship effect in judgments of physical attractiveness. In J. C. Toller (Ed.), Friendships: Types, cultural, psychological and social aspects (pp. 145-162). Hauppage, NY: Nova.


How does friendship affect judgments of physical attractiveness? Two studies confirmed that friends and strangers rate the physical attractiveness of the same individuals differently-with friends providing higher ratings-and examined the sources of such discrepancies. Study 1 revealed that when rating the physical attractiveness of tribal Maasai, acquaintances from the same village exhibited lower agreement with strangers (unacquainted Maasai and U.S. college students) than the strangers exhibited with each other, suggesting friendship moderated the basis of attractiveness judgments. While physical characteristics, such as skin smoothness and eye size, significantly predicted ratings made by strangers, friends of targets appeared to rely on these features less. Study 2 replicated these findings among U.S. college students and investigated the role of nonphysical attributes in friends' judgments. Consistent with the hypothesis that friend-stranger discrepancies in perceived physical attractiveness result when friends weigh nonphysical attributes that are unknown to strangers, physical attractiveness ratings made by friends were related to perceptions of the target individual's personality. Using targets and raters from two distinct cultural groups, these studies demonstrate a friendship effect in which physical characteristics are emphasized when strangers judge physical attractiveness, but nonphysical attributes override appearance when the target is known. 

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