Story & Photo by Carmen Jacobs
“It’s not what’s on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” and other similar sayings are frequently quoted when it comes to the subject of attraction. The media perpetuates the narrative that physical appearance should not be a factor in the pursuit of romantic relationships. Simultaneously, the media contradicts this and maintains a fixation on superficial, aesthetic qualities and continually inundates the public with templates of what an attractive person should look like. The entertainment, fashion, makeup,social media and dating app industries are some of the biggest culprits.
For example, Tinder is a popular dating app structured in a way that forces its users—all 50 million of them—to choose potential partners based almost purely on their looks. This allows users to find dates quickly and maximize their chances of finding a desirable partner. The media’s impact on the degree to which people value aesthetic is undeniably powerful. However, as powerful as it may be, is it the only factor influencing human attraction? Or are there internal, individualistic factors that influence whom one is attracted to? In every corner of the world, there is diversity in the attractiveness of people in relationships. If people had to fit society’s image of beauty to date, only a miniscule amount of people would be in relationships.
So what else is it that drives physical attraction?
Humans are born with a psychological mechanism that causes individuals to almost exclusively seek relationships with people in their own perceived realm of physical attractiveness.
However, the main key to this concept is that this behavior is not only involuntary, but subconscious. It does not just apply to people turning a blind eye to those deemed less attractive than them; the principle also applies to people deemed more attractive than them.
Of course, there are many couples who exhibit drastically varying levels of attractiveness who appear to be exceptions to this rule. Non-physical, features such as money, power, status and fetishization can, and often do, impact relationship pairings. Still, these relationships cannot be fully regarded as “exceptions” to the scientific rule.
According to Rose State Psychology Professor Dr. Richard Wedemeyer, people make the conscious decision to date someone for superficial reasons.
“This behavior is actually immoral, perhaps this is what people are thinking of when they think shallow.”
As it seems, the stereotypical belief that people in unequal relationships are likely dating their partner for superficial benefits is relatively true.
“This is why when we see an unlikely couple-an odd pairing walking down the street, we feel a bit of initial shock-we are a bit surprised. We feel this way for a reason—it’s not ‘normal’,” Wedemeyer said.
Considering that shallow relationships are driven by ulterior motives, it is logical to conclude that these couples do not actually defy the psychological principle. These relationships are created with shallow, ingenuine intentions, sacrifice the core values of a true, healthy relationship are sacrificed.
Even accounting for the impactful psychological factors, it is not surprising that someone in a high position of power would pursue a relationship with someone perceived to be far more attractive than them. The media gives society the impression that being in a relationship with someone seen as extremely physically attractive is a coveted accomplishment. This is one way the outer influence of the media still finds a way to override human nature and psychological instinct.
All things considered, this situation also does not break the scientific rule: the described person above would not be seeking a true connection to begin a sincere relationship. Instead, their desires and impulses would be almost completely superficial.
These examples and many others reflect how powerful the media’s influence can be on relationship formation and physical attraction. It is a powerful force that affects everyone in various ways.
Yes, looks do matter—and not only because the media tells society they do. While the media’s outside influence does play significant role in relationships and attraction, the inner workings of the brain are what actually determines whom individuals view as an ideal match. In this respect, the aforementioned saying takes on a new meaning: “It’s not what’s on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside.”