This Is Why Your Attractiveness Has Very Little to Do with You

Context is key when it comes to your attractiveness, according to a study.

Put away the perfume, hair straighteners, and makeup. The real reason you’re attractive has nothing to do with beauty products or exercise regimes. Turns out, being more attractive is actually way less expensive—and time-consuming. To give your looks an extra boost, new research says you should surround yourself with people who are less attractive than you. Seriously!

Does-Having-Ugly-Friends-Make-You-More-Attractive--What-the-Surprising-Science-SaysYulia Mayorova/shutterstock

According to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science, determining how good-looking someone is completely depends on context. Researchers asked participants to rate pictures of faces according to their attractiveness. But when those same pictures were placed side-by-side with other faces and rated again, their perceived levels of attractiveness increased from the initial scores.

“Until now, it’s been understood that a person’s level of attractiveness is generally steady,” Dr. Nicholas Furl, the study’s author, said. “If you saw a picture of George Clooney today, you would rate him as good-looking as you would tomorrow. However, this work demonstrates that the company we keep has an effect on how attractive we appear to others.”

In essence, the study suggests that your perceived attractiveness can change given who you’re with and how good-looking they are in comparison. People might receive a higher attractiveness score if placed next to less attractive people than they would if assessed alone. Brutal… but it does make a bit of sense. Plus, on the positive side, it just proves that friends are ridiculously healthy for us.

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Brooke Nelson
Brooke Nelson is a researcher at PBS FRONTLINE in Boston, Massachusetts, and writes regularly about travel, health, and culture news for Reader’s Digest. Previously she was a staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her articles have also appeared on MSN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance, among other sites. She earned a BA in international relations from Hendrix College. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeTNelson.