Do women become friends based on similar levels of attactiveness? If so, does this breed rivalry?


Past research suggests that young women perceive their same-sex friends as both facilitating the pursuit of desirable mates and competing for access to desirable mates. We propose that similar levels of physical attractiveness between young adult female friends might be one explanation for the opposing forces in their friendships. Forty-six female friendship pairs completed questionnaires about themselves, their friend, and their friendship; in addition, each woman’s picture was rated by a set of nine naive judges. Friends were similar in both self-rated and other-rated level of attractiveness. Within-pair analyses revealed that women agreed on which friend was more attractive, and the less attractive members of each friendship pair (by pair consensus as well as outside judges’ ratings) perceived more mating rivalry in their friendship than did the more attractive members of each friendship pair. We offer directions for research on women’s friendships over the lifespan.

Source: “Attractiveness and Rivalry in Women’s Friendships with Women” from Human Nature, Volume 21, Number 1 / March, 2010

Hat tip: Gad Saad. He breaks it down more specifically:

(1) Women’s self-ratings of physical attractiveness were positively correlated (r = 0.30, p < .05). In other words, there is a positive association between the self-perceived attractiveness ratings of women and that of their friends.

(2) Independent raters’ ratings of physical attractiveness were also positively correlated and even more strongly than above (r = 0.61, p < .001). In other words, there is a positive association between the attractiveness ratings of women and their friends, as gauged by independent judges.

(3) Women who were the lesser attractive one within their friendship judged the more attractive friend as being a “stauncher” mating rival. In other words, even though pairs of friends are of roughly equal physical attractiveness, less attractive women construed their friends as mating rivals (more so than the other way around). One might imagine how such dynamics can create envy within same-sex female friendships.

Saad’s book is here.

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