Matching hypothesis

The matching hypothesis (also known as the matching phenomenon) is a social psychology theory, first proposed by Elaine Hatfield and her colleagues in 1966,[1], which suggests why people become attracted to their partner. It claims that people are more likely to form long standing relationships with someone who is as equally physically attractive as they are. This is influenced by realistic choices, desire of the match and good probability of obtaining the date.[2]

If this leads you to think of all the successful couples in which the partners differ greatly in physical attractiveness, it is likely that the less attractive partner has compensating qualities to offer.[3] For instance, some men with wealth and status desire younger, more attractive women. Some women are more likely to overlook physical attractiveness for men who possess wealth and status.[3]



Walster et al. - 1966[1]

Walster advertised a "Computer Match Dance". 752 student participants were rated on physical attractiveness by four independent judges, as a measure of social desirability. Participants were told to fill in a questionnaire for the purposes of computer pairing, but it was used to rate similarity. Instead, participants were randomly paired, except no man was paired with a taller woman. During the dance, participants were asked to rate their date. It was found that the more attractive students were favored as dates over the less attractive students, and physical attractiveness was found to be the most important factor, over intelligence and personality. Although it showed that physical attractiveness was a factor, it had no effect on the partner so this study did not support the hypothesis.

However, the study lacks ecological validity: interaction was very brief between participants, hence any judgment was likely to have been of superficial characteristics. The short duration between meeting and rating their partner also reduced the chance of rejection. Finally, because only students were used as participants, the sample is not representative of the whole population. In a follow up study six months after the dance, it was found that partners who were similar in terms of physical attractiveness were more likely to have continued dating: a finding that supports the matching hypothesis.

Walster and Walster - 1969[citation needed]

Walster and Walster ran a follow up to the Computer Dance, but instead allowed participants to meet beforehand in order to give them greater chance to interact and think about their ideal qualities in a partner. The study had greater ecological validity than the original study, and the finding was that partners that were similar in terms of physical attractiveness expressed the most liking for each other – a finding that supports the matching hypothesis.

Murstein - 1972[4]

Murstein also found evidence that supported the matching hypothesis. Photos of 197 couples, mutually exclusive or engaged, were rated in terms of attractiveness: self-perception, perception of the partner, and appearance judged from photograph. The matching hypothesis was supported for judgment on photographs and self-perception ratings. The study found a tendency for two people of equal physical attractiveness to commit to a serious relationship.

Huston - 1973[5]

Huston argued that the evidence for the matching hypothesis didn't come from matching but instead on the tendency of people to avoid rejection hence choosing someone similarly attractive to themselves, to avoid being rejected by someone more attractive than themselves. Huston attempted to prove this by showing participants photos of people who had already indicated that they would accept the participant as a partner. The participant usually chose the person rated as most attractive; however, the study has very flawed ecological validity as the relationship was certain, and in real life people wouldn't be certain hence are still more likely to choose someone of equal attractiveness to avoid possible rejection.

White - 1980[6]

White conducted a study on 123 dating couples at UCLA. He stated that good physical matches may be conducive to good relationships. The study reported that partners most similar in physical attractiveness were found to rate themselves happier and report deeper feelings of love nine months later.

Brown - 1986[citation needed]

Brown argued for the matching hypothesis, but maintained that it results from a learned sense of what is "fitting" – we adjust our expectation of a partner in line with what we believe we have to offer others, instead of a fear of rejection.

Other Studies

Further evidence supporting the matching hypothesis was found by:

  • Berscheid et al. (1971)[7]
  • Berscheid and Dion (1974)[8]
  • Berscheid and Walster et al. (1974)[9]
  • Kalick and Hamilton (1986)[10]


  • Price and Vandenberg stated that "the matching phenomenon [of physical attractiveness between marriage partners] is stable within and across generations"[11].
  • "Love is often nothing but a favorable exchange between two people who get the most of what they can expect, considering their value on the personality market." - Erich Fromm[12]


  1. ^ a b Walster, E., Aronson, V., Abrahams, D., & Rottman, L. (1966). Importance of physical attractiveness in dating behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4(5), 508-516.
  2. ^ Hatfield, E. & Sprecher, S. (2009). Matching hypothesis. In H. T. Reis & S. K. Sprecher (Eds.) Encyclopedia of human relationships (pp. 1065-1067). New York: SAGE.
  3. ^ a b Meyers, D. G. (2010). Social Psychology (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
  4. ^ Murstein, B. I. (1972). Physical attractiveness and marital choice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22(1), 8-12.
  5. ^ Huston, T. L. (1973). Ambiguity of acceptance, social desirability, and dating choice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 9(1), 32-42.
  6. ^ White, G. L. (1980). Physical attractiveness and courtship progress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(4), 660-668.
  7. ^ Berscheid, E., Dion, K., Walster, E., & Walster, W.G. (1971). Physical attractiveness and dating choice: A test of the matching hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7, 173-189.
  8. ^ Dion, K. K., & Berscheid, E. (1974). Physical attractiveness and peer perception among children. Sociometry, 37(1), 1-12.
  9. ^ Berscheid, E. & Walster, E. (1974). “Physical attractiveness.” Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 7, 157-215.
  10. ^ Kalick, S. M., & Hamilton, T. E., III (1986). The matching hypothesis reexamined. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 673-682.
  11. ^ Price, Richard A.; Vandenberg, Steven G.; Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol 5(3), Jul, 1979. pp. 398-400.
  12. ^ The Sane Society, 1955

Further reading

  • Eyseneck, Michael W.; Flanagan, Cara. Psychology for A2 Level. 
  • Hayes, Nicky. Foundations of Psychology: An Introductory Text. 
  • Gross, Richard; Rob McIlveen, Hugh Coolican, Alan Clamp, and Julia Russell. Psychology: A New Introduction for A Level. 

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Matching-Hypothese — Die Matching Hypothese besagt, dass Individuen, die soziale Beziehungen eingehen, darauf achten, dass die Anziehungskraft des Partners (durch Aussehen, Status, Reichtum etc.) mit der eigenen vergleichbar ist. Die beiden Personen besitzen so eine… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Matching law — In operant conditioning, the matching law is a quantitative relationship that holds between the relative rates of response and the relative rates of reinforcement in concurrent schedules of reinforcement. It applies reliably when non human… …   Wikipedia

  • Rare Earth hypothesis — In planetary astronomy and astrobiology, the Rare Earth hypothesis argues that the emergence of complex multicellular life (metazoa) on Earth required an improbable combination of astrophysical and geological events and circumstances. The term… …   Wikipedia

  • RNA world hypothesis — A comparison of RNA (left) with DNA (right), showing the helices and nucleobases each employs. The RNA world hypothesis proposes that life based on ribonucleic acid (RNA) pre dates the current world of life based on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA),… …   Wikipedia

  • Chemoaffinity hypothesis — The Chemoaffinity hypothesis states that neurons make connections with their targets based on interactions with specific molecular markers[1] and, therefore, that the initial wiring diagram of an organism is (indirectly) determined by its… …   Wikipedia

  • sejunction hypothesis —    The term sejunction comes from the Latin noun seiunctio, which means divorce, separation. It was introduced in or shortly before 1900 by the German neurologist Carl Wernicke (1848 1904) to denote an intracerebral mechanism by means of which… …   Dictionary of Hallucinations

  • Interpersonal attraction — (known as biological attraction in animals) is the attraction between people which leads to friendships and romantic relationships. The study of interpersonal attraction is a major area of study in social psychology. In a colloquial sense,… …   Wikipedia

  • Ähnlichkeitsanziehung — Die Matching Hypothese besagt, dass Individuen, die soziale Beziehungen eingehen, darauf achten, dass die Anziehungskraft des Partners (durch Aussehen, Status, Reichtum etc.) mit der eigenen vergleichbar ist. Die beiden Personen besitzen so eine… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Physical attractiveness — …   Wikipedia

  • Project MATCH — began in 1989 and was sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The project was an 8 year, multi site, $27 million investigation that studied which types of alcoholics respond best to which forms of treatment.… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.