This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 16 table of contents.

The Ideal Friend

What are people looking for in a lasting friendship? Norman (1968) presented students with a list of 555 adjectives and asked them to check off the ones that would be most important in a friendship. Of the top-rated eight adjectives, six formed a recognizable cluster that might be called sincerity or authenticity. An ideal friend is sincere, honest, loyal, truthful, trustworthy, and dependable. A person with these characteristics is predictable in a good way: steadfast and true.

Research shows a consistent advantage for good-looking people in establishing friendships. Beauty leads to better first impressions. Physically attractive people are also assumed to be superior in intelligence, health, wealth, and personality. These results are found when subjects are asked to give quick impressions of people they do not know. Dion, Berscheid, and Walster (1972) conclude that most subjects are assuming, "What is beautiful is good." Walster (1966) randomly assigned couples at a "computer dance" (with partners chosen at random by a computer) and found that men and women rated as more attractive were indeed rated as more likable by their dancing partners.

What was the "matching hypothesis" and how did research support it?

Berscheid, Dion, Walster, and Walster (1971) tested the matching hypothesis, which was that people would seek to date others of the same "social desirability" level. The matching hypothesis is based on the assumption that people make realistic choices in order to avoid rejection and maximize probability of attaining their goal (a romantic relationship). Several studies supported this conclusion. For example, in one study subjects were asked to pick out a date from six photographs of opposite-sexed peers. Subjects tended to select a potential date who matched their own level of attractiveness.

What problem affects certain men who consider themselves unlucky in love?

Follow-up studies showed that some men who consider themselves unlucky in love suffer from a mismatching syndrome. They target women who are far more attractive and socially desirable than themselves. Naturally, these men are often rejected. They may make despairing comments about their luck, but the problem seems to be a lack of realistic judgment about their own attractiveness. Typically, these men are rated as not very attractive, but—perhaps with their goals influenced by the beautiful people in ads and magazines—they will not consider dating a woman who is rated as unattractive as themselves.

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