Characteristics VS Looks

In society, there has been an ongoing debate about building attraction when it comes to dating. One of the perennial debates is whether looks make a bigger difference than a person’s personality.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s a generally accepted truth that people who are conventionally physically attractive have an advantage when it comes to dating

Not only do visual signs of health – clear skin, facial symmetry, etc. – stir certain instincts in us all but attractive people also benefit from pretty privilege or the halo effect. Because they’re good looking, they’re also seen as being more trustworthy, kinder and smarter – all very attractive traits to have.

In terms of mating value – the aspects of attraction which are intrinsically based on certain favorable traits. Some, like financial success or social status, help ensure that any child will be raised successfully to adulthood. Others, like physical attractiveness and athleticism, are inheritable traits that help assure the child’s own reproductive success.

Except science has shown that looks lone are not enough for a lasting relationship. In fact, a recent research study found that it’s actually uniqueness that defines attractiveness over time rather than just looks or charisma. In the paper, Relational Mate Value: Consensus and Uniqueness in Romantic Evaluations, Eastwick and Hunt found that over time, who we consider attractive changes – people we may have seen as “alright” at first become far more appealing to us while people who are hot as the sun at first actually find that their advantages decline in importance.

Also, not surprising, they also found out that people tend to form a relatively uniform consensus about somebody’s appeal fairly quickly.

Getting to know somebody over time makes them more attractive to you. And this is how over the long term character can prevail over somebodies good looks.

The truth is that there will always be people who are able to leverage looks for a short-term advantage, but in the long run, it’s getting to know someone that ultimately makes them more attractive.

How Personality Wins Out When Building Attraction

There a simple factor that comes into play to help make people more attractive to us.

And the way it works is because of a psychological quirk that marketers have long exploited: the Exposure Effect. When you’re exposed to something repeatedly, you tend to develop a taste for it. It becomes preferable to you because it’s familiar.

The Exposure Effect – increased familiarity with somebody can make them seem more likable and pleasing. In fact studies have shown that the more two people interact in a face-to-face setting, the more attracted they feel to one another

Attraction, after all, is about more than looks. It’s about how someone makes you feelThis is known as the Reward Theory of Attraction: the more somebody’s presence makes us feel good, the more we prioritize that relationship. We associate those feelings with that person and develop a new appreciation for them, a fondness for the things that make them uniquely them.

However, its important to bear in mind that beauty doesn’t necessarily win out in the long run: because the way we feel about people changes how we perceive them.

Exposure alone doesn’t automatically mean that two people are going to fall in love.  Exposure doesn’t magically make love happen, it enhances the dominant emotion someone feels for you. If someone finds you kind of annoying, repeated exposure only serves to reinforce this. If someone things you’re cool however, getting to know you over time, building attraction, makes them much more likely to be interested.

Love at first sight

Relationships that form quickly – the “love at first sight” kind – burn out quickly as well. They’re formed on surface impressions – physical looks, superficial charm, etc. – and that attraction fades as the couple gets to know each other better. This is why secondary schools and colleges are so often a rolling wheel of relationships, with couples getting together and breaking up seemingly within days, if not weeks: they’re falling in limerence with the surface, not the core and the appeal vanishes quickly.

Playing the long game, however, means letting things build. It’s the slow simmer rather than the fast boil, the gradual building of true attraction. Most relationships, especially ones that are going to last, are built over time. Building attraction is a process, and when it works, it’s magic. There’s nothing quite like that realization of a newfound desire or realizing that somebody is suddenly incredibly hot.


In truth, people who are conventionally good looking have the initial advantage. But by being someone worth knowing, someone that people want to be around and spend time with… as they get to know you, they’ll begin to realize just how attractive you actually are.

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EP50 – Characteristics VS Looks

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EP50 – Characteristics VS Looks
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