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Longer acquaintance levels the romantic playing field

Longer acquaintance levels the romantic playing field
Highlights

A new study has suggested that longer acquaintance levels the romantic playing field.The study found that partners who become romantically involved soon after meeting tend to be more similar in physical attractiveness than partners who get together after knowing each other for a while.

A new study has suggested that longer acquaintance levels the romantic playing field.The study found that partners who become romantically involved soon after meeting tend to be more similar in physical attractiveness than partners who get together after knowing each other for a while.


Lead researcher Lucy Hunt of the University of Texas at Austin said that the results indicate that perceptions of beauty in a romantic partner might change with time, as individuals get to know one another better before they start dating.

She added that having more time to get acquainted may allow other factors, such as another person's compatibility as a relationship partner, to make that person appealing in ways that outshine more easily observable characteristics such as physical attractiveness. Or perhaps another person might actually become more attractive in the eyes of the beholder by virtue of these other factors.

Hunt and colleagues Paul Eastwick (UT-Austin) and Eli Finkel (Northwestern University) were interested in understanding why individuals tend to be paired with mates who have similar physical, behavioral and psychological characteristics, a well-documented phenomenon psychological that scientists refer to as "assortative mating."

One explanation for this pattern in pairing comes from a competition-based perspective: an individual's success in the mating "market" is limited by his or her own desirability. People who are physically attractive tend to be seen as very desirable and thus, are better able to win over highly-desirable partners themselves.

The results revealed that the longer the romantic partners had known each other before dating, the less likely they were to be matched on attractiveness, just as the researchers hypothesized.

There may be more to the old saying than was previously thought: Maybe it's the case that beauty is partially in the eye of the beholder, especially as time passes, Hunt concludes.

The study is published in Psychological Science.
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