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Women forgive attractive men, tolerate unattractive only up to a point

Women are a lot more likely to put up with misbehaviour in a man if he is good looking.

sex and relationships Updated: May 29, 2015 14:20 IST
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Handsome men really do have it easy: Women are a lot more likely to put up with misbehaviour in a man if he is good looking.

If an unattractive man transgresses a social norm, women tend to dump him more easily than they would do an attractive man, says a new study.

The study by Jeremy Gibson and Jonathan Gore of the Eastern Kentucky University in the US found that a woman's view of a man is influenced by how handsome and law-abiding he is.

"The unattractive male is tolerated up to a point. His unattractiveness is okay until he misbehaves," said Gibson.

Gibson and Gore tested if and how levels of attractiveness and conforming to social norms combine to influence 170 college women's perceptions of men.

Two male faces -- one attractive, the other not -- bearing similar features were paired in two written scenarios. In the one, the man committed a major social no-no, in the other not.

The researchers found that whether a man transgressed a social norm was a much greater put-off than whether he was unattractive. Normally women do not feel differently towards a homely man who toes the line.

If that same ugly duckling, however, transgresses the boundaries of right or wrong, a magnified or 'double devil' effect comes into play.

He is then viewed in an extremely negative light, much more so than would have been the case if he were handsome.

In what is called the 'halo effect', people warm up to others with positive characteristics, such as handsomeness.

The 'devil effect' or 'negative halo effect' comes into play when people assume that others possess so-called 'bad' characteristics, such as unattractiveness.

The halo and devil effect often comes into play when people view others' profiles on online dating sites.

Based on their results, Gibson and Gore believe that unattractive men who provide unusual or alarming information in their profiles may not receive a second glance from women.

In the judicial system, unattractive defendants are also known to receive more severe penalties than more attractive ones, even if they committed the same crime.

The study was published in Springer's journal Gender Issues.