Simply put- it’s not true. You are you, and that solely defines other’s perception of you and your attractiveness. The question posed Tovee, Taylor and Cornelissen:
Does judging a woman’s body in comparison to other women influence how individuals perceive other’s bodies and attractiveness?
The study was to find out whether people’s bodies have an attractiveness value independent from the range of bodies they happen to be around, or whether attractiveness judgments are made in relation to immediate circumstances.
Another way of saying this is: you may be a “7” standing alone, but near others who are less attractive, say “4s,” would you look more like an “8”?
A group of 20 participants (10 males and females) judged 20 images of female bodies for attractiveness. The bodies had different BMIs and waist to hip ratios, with all standardized clothing and blurred out faces. Next, a group of 400 participants rated the same images, but only a single image rather than all 20 of them.
The logic being that if the ratings of attractiveness changed with an array of bodies available to draw comparisons to, then the between-subjects group ratings can be expected to be different.
What did they find?
As the BMI and WHR increased, the women’s bodies became less attractively rated. Yet, there were no statistical differences when comparing the ratings from both controlled environments.
When a participant made a judgment on just a single picture, they had a similar judgment to those who did not have other bodies to compare the image to.
It seems that the perceptions of attractiveness were generated by using an internal reference, rather than an influence from surrounding bodies. Meaning if you’re viewed as a 7, you may be viewed that way no matter who you’re standing next to.
Every time I read a study I think to myself, how does this affect real life and can this make a difference in your life? This study just affirms the idea that you should not judge yourself based on others. Not only is it totally unproductive, but it’s also not the way anyone else is drawing their judgments about you.
Tovee, M., Taylor, J., & Cornelissen, P. (2016). Can we believe judgments of human physical attractiveness? Evolution & Human Behavior, doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.10.005