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Health & Sex

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Pretty Is as Pretty Does

Physical Attractiveness Nosedives if You Act Ugly and Gets a Boost by a Beautiful Personality
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 3, 2007 -- To be more physically attractive to the opposite sex, you may want to give your personality a makeover.

A new study states that "personality goes a long way toward determining your attractiveness; it can even change people's impressions of how good looking you are."

The study included 78 college students at a northeastern U.S. university.

First, they watched a computer screen display 36 facial photos of members of the opposite sex.

The students rated the physical attractiveness of the people in the photos on a scale of 1 (extremely unattractive) to 10 (extremely attractive).

Next, the students were asked to count down from a large number by sevens and then up by 13s.

That task was all about distracting them before they saw the photos again. As the photos reappeared, the students heard about each person's personality.

Some were described as being honest, humorous, mature, intelligent, polite, and helpful. Others were called abusive, offensive, unstable, cruel, unfair, and rude.

Lastly, the students repeated their physical attractiveness ratings and noted whether they wanted to befriend or date the people in the photos.

Personality rocked the results.

People who looked good lost ground if they had nasty personalities. And those in the middle of the pack or further down on the looks scale benefited from an admirable personality.

Likewise, people weren't keen to date or befriend the beautiful but cruel. Instead, they'd rather spend time with someone with a better personality.

The results were a bit stronger for women. But "personality was of great importance to both genders," write the researchers.

They included Gary Lewandowski Jr., PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Monmouth University in New Jersey.

Single students and students in romantic relationships both connected physical attractiveness and personality.

The bottom line: "While it may still be important to be physically attractive, it is also important to convey a desirable personality," write the researchers.

They add that "these findings are particularly encouraging as cosmetic surgery becomes increasingly common."

Their study appears in the scholarly journal Personal Relationships.

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