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Researchers use new statistical tools on previous data about attractiveness

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Researchers have been taking a look at romantic partners and what draws them together. They've been seeking to refine our understanding. Researcher Greg Webster says attractive people, or people who are seen as attractive, end up with attractive people, or to put it more precisely...

GREG WEBSTER: Men who see themselves as more physically attractive tend to be dating or married to women who are also seeing themselves as somewhat more physically attractive. Or you could also think about that in terms of the flip side, less physically attractive people tend to get with less physically attractive people.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The study used new statistical tools on old data, as long ago as the 1970s.

WEBSTER: Lot of social psychological and evolutionary psychological theory would suggest that the fundamentals of human attraction are probably fairly stable over time.

FADEL: He says that's because we've evolved. The traits people commonly see as attractive are often related to being healthy.

INSKEEP: OK, so just trying to get through this, the idea is there are attractive people linked with attractive people. Of course, attractiveness is subjective, but they're studying people here who see themselves as attractive and are seen as attractive. Many of us could probably think of a couple to whom this rule doesn't apply. So how did they end up together? Webster says we notice them because they are exceptions.

WEBSTER: Most people tend to get with other people who are similarly attractive in terms of their romantic partner. And it turns out that those couples typically don't stand out to us. What does stand out to us, and what we tend to remember more is when we see one extremely attractive person with a less-attractive person.

FADEL: One other item. People who've been in a relationship longer appear to be more realistic about how they look, especially men.

WEBSTER: And it could just be that maybe men when they're younger have an artificially inflated sense of how they are, which might serve in their best interest if they're on the mating market, so to speak.

INSKEEP: I guess it makes men confident if they think they are more attractive than other people see them as.

FADEL: So it ends up that people who think they're attractive end up with people who think they're attractive?

INSKEEP: Something like that, yes. It could be that people who have a large enough ego end up with people who have a large enough ego.

FADEL: Right. Right.

INSKEEP: Or confidence. Anyway, that's the study.

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