When it comes to attraction, it’s definitely not all about looks. As in the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Shallow Hal, good people often seem more attractive. “The ‘halo effect’ suggests that those who are perceived as physically attractive are also perceived as having socially favorable personality traits like kindness,” Dr. Beall says. “Interestingly, recent research suggests that this stereotype may also work in the opposite direction—socially favorable personality traits may also affect ratings of physical attractiveness.” One study from China asked three groups of people to look at pictures of faces and rate their attractiveness. The group given positive personality info on the faces (the others were given negative or no info) rated the faces as more attractive. “Mounting evidence suggests that the ‘what is good is beautiful’ stereotype may also hold true,” Dr. Beall says.
This one seems like a no-brainer: If you are looking for a partner, it’s best not to look like a slob. You probably “clean up good,” right? There are biological reasons for this. “Research shows a large part of physical attraction is centered on the more changeable aspects of our self-presentation,” says psychologist Jeremy Nicholson, MSW, PhD, who writes The Attraction Doctor blog on Psychology Today. “Specifically, the most attractive physical features fall under ‘self-care’—things like good grooming, clean hair, nice fitting and quality clothing, good posture, and healthy weight.” We are more likely to search out a partner who is healthy and strong (which mean good genes), as well as capable of taking care of future offspring, which is evidenced by how you take care of yourself. “These self-care features are attractive because they indicate how we are managing our health and well-being, which demonstrates our potential value as a partner and mate,” Dr. Nicholson says. Try out these 15 ways to get gorgeous overnight.
Just like how smiling and displaying kindness make you more attractive, showing signs of stress, like bags under your eyes or dull skin, makes you less attractive. And not just because stress tends to show up on our faces—somehow, others can sense that it’s part of a weakened immune system. In a study from Europe and South Africa, women rated men as more attractive when the men had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and a stronger immune system. “Women seem to be able to detect the men who’ve got the strongest immune response, and they seem to find them the most attractive,” study author Fhionna R. Moore, PhD, a psychologist at Abertay University in Scotland, told CNN. The researchers suspect that testosterone, which is linked with a strong immune system and low cortisol, also plays a role in attracting women.