The dynamics of predicted attractedness:

The researchers asked each of their subjects to rate their own attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 7. The students then had three-minute one-on-one conversations with five members of the opposite sex, a setup the scientists describe as “speed meeting.” (The goal wasn’t to get a date, because some of the participants already were involved with people outside the study.) After each conversation, they rated the other person’s attractiveness and sexual interest.
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The more attractive the woman was to the guy, the more likely he was to overestimate her interest in him, researchers found. And it turns out, the less attractive men (who believed they were better looking than the women rated them) were more likely to think beautiful women were hot for them. But the more attractive guys tended to have a more realistic assessment.

And the women? Perilloux and her coauthors found that women underestimated men’s sexual interest.

This doesn’t actually surprise me much in any event. It punctures part of the ideology that women have a higher estimation of their romantic prospects because they conflate sleeping with a man with the same sort of romantic possibility as entering a monogamous relationship with them.

But beyond that, the fact that less attractive men have “higher standards” is unsurprising not only by reading Roissy’s peanut gallery, but also from my own experience. Less attractive men tend to have less romantic experience. It’s through romantic experiences that we figure out where exactly we stand in the pecking order. I know that before I actually started dating, I had an inflated idea of what the possibilities were if I could just get from Point A to Point B. As I started getting more and more exposure to women, I started learning where I fit into things. This was a positive development and not just because I “lowered my standards.” It meant, among other things, that I started actually noticing my female counterparts.

For guys, that’s a big part of things. Hit Coffee friend Bob commented that unattractive women are, to men, background furniture. We see attractive women on TV; we notice the attractive women around us. We get a misguided sense of what “normal” is. And, along with the male tendency to view ourselves as normal, associate ourselves with women that are out of our league if we are not careful. I had every incentive not to do this, did not at all do this consciously, but it ended up happening anyway. Of course, I finally determined “my place” shortly before I lost weight, and then when I lost weight (and became more socially acclimated), my self-perception didn’t change with it. So it can absolutely work in reverse and we can become more female-like in our self-assessments.

Missing from all of this, of course, are the non-physical attributes of dateability. We tend to take for granted that men are physically-obsessed. Some men assume too much that women don’t care about looks (it’s all about “status” or alphahood or something else). Other men, though, tend to view all relationships the same way that we view women. Or, perhaps more accurately, the way we think we view women. The way that guys without romantic opportunities often do (because they don’t understand the difference between a plain or chubby girl we actually get along with and an attractive woman that we don’t). So, for instance, when we get rejected, we often think that it’s because the woman is acting on the basis that they are better than us rather than that they don’t see compatibility. This is especially the case among guys with scant dating experience. I remember when I asked out and was rejected by a chubby girl that I only asked out because I thought we were in the same ballpark (we were close). But we weren’t in the same place at all. That she was socially “better” than me was true, actually, but even if you overlook that, you still had an overall lack of compatibility. Along these lines, if nothing else:

I remember Eva saying that she and a previous boyfriend were having a hard time relating to one another because he was super-popular in school and she wasn’t. It sounds trivial, doesn’t it? Yet I am not sure it is.

There is also the issue of aspirational dating, wherein we try to define who we are by who we are with. The notion that being with an attractive woman means that we are inherently more attractive. The same goes to a lesser extent with popularity. Even with cliches. I had an attraction to flighty, gregarious sorts. In part it was a response to my discomfort with my more quiet, introspective manner. But when I was left to actually spend time with one, I discovered that even in the best of circumstances it was kind of hard to actually get along. Of course, I am not an “opposites attract” sort of person, on the whole. And sometimes it clearly does work. But whether it works or not, I think there is the tendency, among guys and girls, to sort of see ourselves in the person we are with. For less attractive or popular guys (in particular) and less attractive or popular girls (to a degree), I think it often results a repulsion for our “equals” if it means conceding where we are in the pecking order. This, combined with the overall lack of experience and increased likelihood of social isolation, contributes significantly to the inflated sense of attractiveness by guys.

But not so much for girls. I wonder why that is? I think that, to some extent, it is related to overall relationship dynamics. The guy is expected to ask the girl out. Therefore, if a guy does not regularly ask girls out, he is more free to dream of where he might be if he did. On the other side of the table, a girl who is not asked out is more likely to be confronted with where she happens to be. She might be able to get one night stands, but I don’t think she is likely to conflate that into something more the same way that a lot of guys do. The burden of doing the asking falls to the guys, but it also gives guys a greater sense of self-control. And the ability to tell themselves that they could do better than they can, if they would only press it (or figure out how).


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9 Responses to Is “Attractedness” a Word?

  1. Peter says:

    Speaking of women on television, there is a term “Hollywood Ugly,” which means an actress in a movie or TV show whose character is supposed to be ugly, but who in real life is hot by most anyone’s standards.

  2. Brandon Berg says:

    There’s also the phenomenon of the fat, past-her-prime, or otherwise unattractive woman who is very vocal about how sexy and desirable she is despite not being 22 and/or model-thin. I can’t tell whether this is desperate bluster or something they actually believe.

  3. Brandon Berg says:

    So here’s Perilloux’s tips: “For men, the best piece of advice is to be more cautious if you’re interested in someone.”

    Bless her heart, she’s doing her best.

  4. trumwill says:

    Speaking of women on television, there is a term “Hollywood Ugly,” which means an actress in a movie or TV show whose character is supposed to be ugly, but who in real life is hot by most anyone’s standards.

    I’ve heard that before. It describes a very real phenomenon. I’ve heard “Liz Lemon Ugly” before. Hollywood Ugly is probably good as a less specific description.

  5. trumwill says:

    There’s also the phenomenon of the fat, past-her-prime, or otherwise unattractive woman who is very vocal about how sexy and desirable she is despite not being 22 and/or model-thin.

    I remember quite a bit of that in the south. I don’t think I’ve seen it as much since leaving.

    Bless her heart, she’s doing her best.

    Yeah. From my perspective, that’s pretty rotten advice. That being said, approaching with assumed interest can be problematic in itself. Approaching with the hope of building interest is a better way to go.

  6. ? says:

    This doesn’t actually surprise me much in any event. It punctures part of the ideology that women have a higher estimation of their romantic prospects because they conflate sleeping with a man with the same sort of romantic possibility as entering a monogamous relationship with them.

    Mmmm . . .

    The goal wasn’t to get a date, because some of the participants already were involved with people outside the study.

    Okay, there’s a big difference between how people behave when they’re invited to participate in a study on something, and how they actually behave as measured by surveys taken at, say, actual speed dating sessions. My intuition is that the women didn’t think the men were “interested” because the men weren’t acting interested: there was no money in it, if you get my meaning.

    Meanwhile, the women were likely on their best behavior, treating all male participants equally regardless of actual interest. After all, it was a controlled study! So the men all came away with about an equal assessment of the women’s interest, which of course was out of line with the actual interest in the case of less attractive men.

    There are just so many observer-induced effects for us to conclude a whole lot from this study.

  7. trumwill says:

    If you’re correct (I don’t think you are, but it’s not provable either way), that’s rather short-sighted on the part of the men, because there is a percentage in it. If not in an actual pick-up line, then in things that are likely to be confused as interest (the kinds of things you say that got guys erroneously thinking the ladies were interested).

    And it would suggest that women are considerably better socialized, all-around. Alternately, that they’re still better at sussing out levels of interest than men (they picked up on the lack of interest while guys picked up false positives).

  8. rob says:

    If this thread is still alive, I can see several issues. First, one has to calibrate the interest d17890-=

  9. rob says:

    If this thread is still alive, I can see several issues. First, the men might be normalizing the “how attracted is she” into a “how attracted is she to me compared to how attracted other women have been to me” because if women usually rate me a 1, then a chick who shows a 2 level of interest is my best bet even though she’s still a terrible bet percentage-wise. I’ve sometimes thought a girl was interested until I saw how she acted around attractive guys. One could see how a guy who has never been been flirted with might confuse not-mean for interest.

    Less attractive guys probably need to psych themselves up more to even hit on, much less pursue someone since their success rate is low.

    More attractive men are much more likely to be in a relationship, have stable hookups, etc. than ugly men. They wouldn’t be as desperate to follow up any hint of interest, and also have a downside: chase new girl, lose current girl. Ugly guys can go months or years without even a prospect, whereas attractive guys often have several girls interested to various extents most of the time: the attractive guy has much more reason to triage his effort to the one(s) that are most into him.

    Finally, and possibly damning to the studies conclusion is selection bias: Did potential subjects have any idea at all what the study was for? It’s pretty easy to imagine that an ugly guy who thinks he’s a 10 is more likely to sign up for an attractiveness/interaction with the opposite sex study than an ugly guy who knows it: they probably pre-selected for delusional ugly dudes without trying.

    The study participants were 19 on average. By say 21, the women would probably more accurately assess men’s interest.

    Lastly, her advice “for” men is so obviously advice to men for women’s benefit that I’m leery of her study design and data analysis.

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