Society can place a lot of importance on good looks. When it comes to individual preferences, however, the idea of physical attraction is a bit more complicated. For some people, looks matter; for others, it is what is on the inside that counts. Still, can we really trust people to tell the truth? According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, what a person says he or she likes doesn’t necessarily equate to what he or she will choose.

"In many cases, people's consciously stated attitudes and preferences predict their behavior quite well," states co-author Alice H. Headly, professor of psychology and faculty fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. "But in the case of attraction, people's implicit, unconscious preferences seem to do a better job."

"If a person tells me, for example, that she doesn't care about how attractive a guy is, our research suggests that her claim isn't worth all that much," says Paul W. Eastwick, assistant professor of psychology at Texas A&M University and lead author of the study. The best way to see where people’s true preferences lie, according to Eastwick, is to see how well they do on one of the study’s experiments.


To measure just how much importance people place on physical qualities, the researchers set up a computer screen to flash various words for the participants. They were then asked to match the synonyms of physical attractiveness with words that they like. Those who managed to finish the task quickly are said to belong to the "looks do matter" group.

Whether you explicitly or implicitly put value on good looks, though, this doesn't automatically mean you form your decisions purely based on them. In the end, how you get along with the other person in question can make or break a date--and become the basis of a romantic relationship.

For more on attractiveness, check out this study:

How successful you are at dating someone doesn't just depend on looks. For tips, try these:

(Screencap from She's Out of My League courtesy of Dreamworks SKG)

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