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Literature Review on Physical Attractiveness in a Romantic Relationship

Romantic relationships are based on a number of factors which determine the nature and extent of the relationship. It is these factors which determine the progression of the relationship. Research has shown that physical attractiveness plays a major role in a romantic relationship. Several propositions have been forwarded to show the role of physical attractiveness in a romantic relationship. This review will look into literature in an attempt to ascertain whether physical attractiveness does indeed play a role in romantic relationships.

According to the Jonason (2009), the physical attributes that comprise physical attractiveness include; the gender, self-perception as well as the height of the individual. Using 228 participants, a survey was carried out to find out how much physical attractiveness affected the relationship between romantic partners. The study population comprised college-age individuals. It was determined that there are two major reasons why physical attractiveness was at the center of a romantic relationship. However, it was impossible to determine why, when and where an individual begins to consider physical attractiveness as the criterion for getting into a romantic relationship with another person. From the article, “The Value of Physical Attractiveness in Romantic Partners: Modeling Biological and Social Variables,” it is clear that individuals who consider physical attractiveness as an inconsequential factor when choosing a mate, had low self-perception. This, therefore, placed them at a disadvantage and had very minimal chance of dating an individual who is physically attractive. Additionally, the paper suggests that, the environment in which the individual is exposed to, also determines whether they will end up choosing a physically attractive or unattractive mate for a romantic relationship. People exposed to environments with physically attractive people tend to prefer physically attractive mates. Conversely, people exposed to environments with less physically attractive people end up in romantic relationships with less physically attractive people.

According to Lee et al (2008), people who end in romantic relationships with less attractive people are never under the delusion that their mates are more attractive than other people consider them to be. Furthermore, physical attractiveness leads to some form of hedonic adaptation among people. This is evident from the fact that the physical attractiveness of a person plays a major role in other aspects of an individual’s life apart from the romantic relationship that they have. From the article, “If I’m Not Hot, Are You Hot or Not? “Attractive people stand a better chance of getting a job, getting a pay rise or even a promotion. From the perspective of a relationship, attractive people tend to pool together and have higher chances of starting the romantic relationship in comparison to less physically attractive people.

From the article, “Perception of Physical Attractiveness: Mechanisms Involved in the Maintenance of Romantic Relationships,” (Simpson, Gangestad &Lerma, 1990), there are two perspectives of attractiveness between two people and the romantic relationship between them. The first perspective involves people constantly engaged in dating relationships. These individuals value the physical attractiveness of the opposite sex much more than individuals not engaged in dating relationships. Secondly, the paper suggests that there is no relationship between the dating status of an individual and their physical attractiveness of the person.

There also exists a strong relationship between the preference of a current physically attractive partner and the physical attractiveness of past and future romantic partners (Swami & Allum, 2012). According to the paper, the person’s previous relationship greatly determines their perspective and expectations of how attractive their future partner should be. Individuals prefer future partners who either meet or surpass the qualities of their previous partners.

Conclusively, research on the role of physical attractiveness on romantic relationships suggests a strong correlation between the two. It is evident that individuals rate each other’s physical qualities and determine whether or not they qualify to engage in a relationship with them. Less attractive people have a high chance of dating with other less attractive people due to their self-perception. Conversely, physically attractive people tend to end up together as well.


Jonason, P. K. (2009). The Value of Physical Attractiveness in Romantic Partners: Modeling Biological and Social Variables. The Journal of social psychology, 149(2), 229-240.

Lee, L., Loewenstein, G., Ariely, D., Hong, J., & Young, J. (2008). If I’m not hot, are you hot or not? Physical-attractiveness evaluations and dating preferences as a function of one’s own attractiveness. Psychological Science, 19(7), 669-677.

Simpson, J. A., Gangestad, S. W., & Lerma, M. (1990). Perception of physical attractiveness: Mechanisms involved in the maintenance of romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(6), 1192.

Swami, V., & Allum, L. (2012). Perceptions of the physical attractiveness of the self, current romantic partners, and former partners. Scandinavian journal of psychology.

Swami, V., Stieger, S., Haubner, T., Voracek, M., & Furnham, A. (2009). Evaluating the physical attractiveness of oneself and one’s romantic partner: Individual and relationship correlates of the love-is-blind bias. Journal of Individual Differences; Journal of Individual Differences, 30(1), 35.

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