A new study published in Personal Relationships examines
the way in which perceptions of physical attractiveness
are influenced by personality. The study finds that individuals
both men and women who exhibit positive
traits, such as honesty and helpfulness, are perceived
as better looking. Those who exhibit negative traits,
such as unfairness and rudeness, appear to be less physically
attractive to observers.
Participants in the study viewed photographs of opposite-sex
individuals and rated them for attractiveness before and
after being provided with information on personality traits.
After personality information was received, participants
also rated the desirability of each individual as a friend
and as a dating partner. Information on personality was
found to significantly alter perceived desirability, showing
that cognitive processes and expectations modify judgments
Perceiving a person as having a desirable personality
makes the person more suitable in general as a close relationship
partner of any kind, says study author Gary W. Lewandowski,
Jr. The findings show that a positive personality leads
to greater desirability as a friend, which leads to greater
desirability as a romantic partner and, ultimately, to
being viewed as more physically attractive. The findings
remained consistent regardless of how attractive
the individual was initially perceived to be, or of the
participants' current relationship status or commitment
level with a partner.
Previous studies examined physical appearance and personality
mainly as independent sources in predicting attraction.
By presenting this information in installments, the study
simulates a more typical context in which seeing the persons
appearance precedes learning about their personality,
and shows that perceptions of a persons physical
attractiveness may change over time due to their positive
or negative traits.
This research provides a more positive alternative
by reminding people that personality goes a long way toward
determining your attractiveness; it can even change peoples
impressions of how good looking you are, says Lewandowski.