The equation Beauty and the Beast worksMen love hot women. Women love supportive men (read money) and Einstein would be disqualified for being too short. A new study published in the "Journal of Family Psychology" shows that the Beauty and the Beast make the most positive and supportive couple.
In the end, attractiveness has universal standards, like big eyes, fine facial traits and specific waist-hip ratios in men and women. Previous researches had revealed that individuals with similar looks are attracted to each other and are higher satisfied by their relationship.
"These studies, however, are mainly based on new couples, showing that absolute beauty is important in the earliest stages of couplehood. But the role of physical attractiveness in well-established partnerships, such as marriage, is somewhat of a mystery," said lead researcher James McNulty of the University of Tennessee.
The importance of looks gets a different twist beyond that initial attraction. The study was made on 82 couples who had married within the previous six months and had started their relationship about three years before. The subjects were on average aged 21-25. The team videotaped as each spouse discussed a personal issue with the partner for 10 minutes.
The researchers then assessed how supportive the spouses were one to another in subjects like eating healthier, landing a new job and exercising more often.
"A negative husband would've said, 'This is your problem, you deal with it,' versus 'Hey, I'm here for you; what do you want me to do?; how can I help you?'" said McNulty.
The facial attractiveness of each partner was rated on a scale from 1 to 10. In about 30% of the cases, the wife was more attractive, in 30% the husband was more attractive and the rest of the couples were made of partners with similar facial attractiveness levels. The results showed that both spouses behaved more positively when the woman was more attractive than the husband.
"Men are very sensitive to women's attractiveness. Women seem to be sensitive to men's height and salary," said Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at MIT's Program in Media Arts and Sciences and Sloan School of Management.
When the husband was more attractive, both partners behaved less supportively with one another.
"Wives mirror, in some ways, the level of support they get from husbands. The husband who's less physically attractive than his wife is getting something more than maybe he can expect to get. He's getting something better than he's providing at that level. So he's going to work hard to maintain that relationship," McNulty told LiveScience.
"Men who are more attractive than their partners would theoretically have access to partners who are more attractive than their current spouses. The 'grass could be greener' mentality could make these men less satisfied and less committed to maintain the marriage," he added.
This explains why the uglies remain with the hot babes.
"Equitable is unlikely to mean the same on every dimension. It just means that overall two people make sense together," said Ariely.