People rate their partners more attractive than others

People rate their partners more attractive than others

Positive illusion

Researchers said such “positive illusion” about partners’ hotness may help keep relationships stable, LiveScience reported.

Past research had turned up evidence that people rate their boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses as especially kind and intelligent compared with other people. But it’s not known whether this rosy outlook extends to physical looks.

To find it out, the researchers from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands recruited 70 couples.

Each of the couples first had a headshot taken by a photographer. Then half of them filled out a questionnaire about their ratings of their own attractiveness and their partner’s attractiveness.

Next, they filled out some dummy questionnaires about other topics to throw them off the scent of the experimental question.

After that, they got to look at the photo of themselves and their partners taken at the beginning of the session and were told to rate the attractiveness of both. Other couples completed the same process, but looked at the photos first.

Later, strangers went through all of the photographs and rated the attractiveness of each person in the experiment.

The results showed that both men and women consistently rated both their own hotness and that of their partner higher than the strangers did, the researchers reported in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

The researchers had thought that people might rate the photographs more objectively, since photos make awkward features hard to ignore, but that wasn’t the case.

Attractiveness ratings based on photos were only slightly lower than attractiveness ratings based on people’s own memories.

The couples in the study were mostly young, ranging in age from 18 to 37, and the average length of the relationships was between two and three years, though they ranged from three months to almost nine years.

Further study on older people and longer relationships is needed to understand how positive illusions change over time, the researchers said.

In many ways, the authors said, these positive illusions are a good thing. Other studies have found that people who hold such illusions are happier in their relationships, experience less conflict, and report more love and trust.

On the other hand, they wrote, positive illusions can be troublesome if taken too far: In couples with rocky relationships, positive illusions are harbingers of trouble, because a too-rosy outlook allows real problems to fester.

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