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Physical Attractiveness, Opportunity, and Success in Everyday Exchange

Matthew Mulford, John Orbell, Catherine Shatto and Jean Stockard
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 103, No. 6 (May 1998), pp. 1565-1592
DOI: 10.1086/231401
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/231401
Page Count: 28
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Physical Attractiveness, Opportunity, and Success in Everyday Exchange
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Abstract

The role of perceived physical attractiveness in everyday exchange is addressed using a laboratory paradigm that examines both play–versus–not–play and cooperate–versus–defect choices in an ecology of available prisoner's dilemma games. The analysis considers the actions of both subject and other in encounters where exchange relationships are possible and include perceptions of others' and own physical attractiveness. Results indicate that subjects are more likely to enter play and to cooperate with others they find attractive. Men who see themselves as more attractive more often cooperate than other men, while women who see themselves as more attractive less often cooperate than other women. In addition, subjects who rate themselves as highly attractive are more likely to cooperate with others they see as also highly attractive. Subjects expect others whom they see as attractive to cooperate more often. At the same time, the effect of perceived attractiveness on choice is independent of these expectations, supporting the hypothesis that attractiveness is a “taste” or “benefit” for actors in exchange relationships.

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