Confirmed: Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

New research from OkCupid, the research-focused dating site, finds that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. OkTrends assessed male perceptions of female attractiveness and found that “when?some men think you’re ugly, other men are more likely to message you. And when some men think you’re cute, other men become less interested.” OkTrends suggests a game-theoretic explanation: “Suppose you’re a man who’s really into someone. If you suspect other men areuninterested, it means less competition. You therefore have an added incentive to send a message … On the other hand, a woman with a preponderance of?‘4’ votes, someone conventionally cute, but not totally hot, might appear to be more in-demand than she actually is. To the typical man considering her, she’s obviously attractive enough to create the impression that?other guys are into her, too.” OkTrends recommends women play up their flaws, instead of minimizing them. [%comments]


My recommendations would be to just stop using the word 'crazy' altogether and move beyond internet dating

Brian S

It's misleading based on the above to suggest that the perception of beauty has changed, but rather the perception of success. And the trend of shooting for the middle is not limited to the dating scene by any means.

Ian Kemmish

I thought that was a well-documented phenomenon? Each of us wants the most attractive person who will settle for us. If my attractiveness is A, then I can expect to date partners whose attractiveness lies in (A - delta, A + delta).

Early disastrous attempts are dating are aimed at establishing A (life would be easier if it was tattooed on our foreheads, but it isn't) and delta. Once they are established, we know roughly where we are in the pecking order.

The TV science series Horizon/Nova once ran an experiment where people's attractiveness really was on a sign on their foreheads, but mirrors weren't allowed. The subjects were told to pair up 1 with 1, 2 with 2 and so on. Guess what? They did it. Pretty quickly too.

This means that people on dating sites should neither play up nor hide their flaws, but be as honest as possible about them.


doesn't this really prove the opposite, that beauty is societal not individual?

OKCupid is blatantly misrepresenting its data here.

The ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 are NOT for physical attractiveness alone.

The ratings are just about how *interested* you are in someone, based on not just seeing their photos but also reading their profile.

So, you might give someone a 1 because they admit they're a cigarette smoker and you refuse to date smokings, never mind that they're gorgeous.

I'm sure there are *some* people who rate *only* based on physical attractiveness. But there's no reason to assume that that's the only factor most men use to do the ratings.

Also, the site is designed so that you mainly care about whether you rate someone at least a 4. If I rate a woman a 4 or 5, she gets an email saying someone rated her highly. The email gives her a link she can click, where she'll see numerous guys' profiles, which she can rate. One of them will be mine. If she rates me a 4 or 5, OKCupid will send both of us a message saying so. Since experienced users know that the trigger for that message being sent is a mutual rating of 4 or 5, many people will consider 1, 2, and 3 to be essentially the same rating (negative), and the same is true of 4 and 5 (positive).

OKCupid does admit that their "research" given in all their posts isn't scientifically controlled. But in this case, they've gone further than that and misrepresented the raw data. Too bad the Freakonomics blog took their assertions at face value.



Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people just have a lot more beholders than others.

Steve S.

When I read this I thought it was not to different from Dan Ariely's findings in his book (which I'm sure many of the readers of this blog have read, or will find interesting) "The Upside of Irrationality". None the less, interesting.

Max Rockbin

The entire posting by OK Cupid was based on an EXTREMELY dubious regression of correlated "independent" variables. It needs serious debunking.

Eric M. Jones

Were I live, 99% of the population gives directions by fast-food restaurants, Donut mills (well,,,and churches). Merely the sight of a "Normal-BMI" girl makes my heart go all aflutter.

A thin, healthy, sane woman is a wet dream around here, even if in California they'd call her a two-bagger.

Charlie Alfred

A two-bagger in baseball is something to be aspired to. Dustin Pedroia won the AL MVP a few years ago for hitting more than 50 of them :-)

And in looks, a two-bagger is a long shot better than Coyote Ugly. At least you get to keep the use of your arm the next day.


"Play up your flaws?" You know there's a problem with that, right?

The question isn't how *many* people message you, it's *who* messages you.

Yes, by all means, make yourself human. But don't start rattling off how you have weird bathroom rituals or love to floss your teeth in bed just because you want more attention. All attention is not equal, by any stretch of the imagination.


So it is now acceptable to literally rate strangers with numbers, on a single scale and publicly to boot? And I thought it would be humiliating to tell people they were too unimportant for me to get in touch personally and have them sign up to a moronic website if they wanted to get my news. The standards of self-esteem and respect for others surely dffer.

"And then your daddy found my profile where I was rated as ugly, so he thought I might be desperate enough to settle for him, and I was indeed. And when two people love each other so much, a miracle happens, and that is how you were born."


*The question isn't how *many* people message you, it's *who* messages you."

I agree. Downplaying your strengths and emphasizing your flaws will attract more responses--all of them from losers with no self confidence. Whether the research is valid, the advice stinks


okcupid missed one point

when looking for CASUAL SEX men significantly lower their standards...this is why average looking girls are in hot demand, because men want to hit it and quit it with them.


1) What scientific reputation does the staff of okcupid have?

2) The conclusion seems pretty naive. Has it occurred to you that perhaps a given male is less likely to message a female that is considered attractive by most, as opposed to a female that the male likes but others might not consider attractive, because the male figures he's more likely to get a response from the less universally admired female?

Charlie Alfred

Precisely John Forbes Nash's thesis, n'est ce pas?