Physical Attractiveness More Important Than Men and Women Let On

C. Price

Written by: C. Price

C. Price

C. Price is part of's content team. She writes advice articles, how-to guides, and studies — all relating to dating, relationships, love, sex, and more.

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles and reports have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Do men and women really know the qualities they want in a mate? According to a new study, there’s a discrepancy between what men and women say they want in a potential partner and who they actually choose to date.

The study comes out of Northwestern University and was authored by Eli Finkel, who devised a unique word-association methodology to determine how important physical attractiveness is to the participants when identifying their perfect match.

The word-association test specifically measured how deeply respondents attached positive feelings to individual qualities, some of which were associated with physical attractiveness.

After completing the word-association test, respondents filled out a survey directly asking them what qualities they valued in a match, and the responses to both tests were then compared.


“Qualities respondents identified as important

rarely matched up to their responses.”

Finkel found the qualities respondents identified as important to them rarely matched up to their word-association responses and all respondents actually found physical attractiveness equally important and desirable in their partners.

To further validate these results, Finkel had respondents engage in a speed dating event, where the qualities they valued matched up with their word-association tests and not their direct response survey.

As Finkel summarized:

“People will readily tell you what they value in a romantic partner, but study after study shows that those preferences don’t predict whom daters are actually attracted to when they meet flesh-and-blood partners.”

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