Original article:

Self-perceived attractiveness, romantic desirability and self-esteem: A mating sociometer perspective

Evolutionary Psychology 11(1): 68-84 Christopher Bale, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK, c.bale@hud.ac.ukJohn Archer, School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK


Sociometer theory proposes that self-esteem is an adaptation which evolved to monitor and regulate interpersonal relationships. It is therefore sensitive to self-assessments in domains relevant to relational desirability. Positive relationships between self-perceived physical attractiveness and self-esteem found in previous studies may reflect the functioning of a mating sociometer, designed to monitor individuals’ desirability as romantic or sexual partners. We thus predicted that these relationships should be mediated by self-perceptions of romantic desirability, or more specifically, individuals’ confidence in their abilities to successfully establish and maintain romantic relationships. Two hundred and eighty seven young adults (98 male) completed an online measure of self-perceived attractiveness, together with measures of self-confidence in appearance and romantic relationships, body-esteem and global self-esteem. Linear regression analyses indicated that self-perceived attractiveness, self-confidence in appearance and body-esteem all significantly predicted self-esteem, and that in each case, the relationship was mediated by romantic self-confidence. Self-perceived attractiveness predicted self-esteem significantly more strongly in females than in males. We discuss these results in relation to sociometer and parental investment theories, and explore limitations and future directions.


sociometer, self-esteem, physical attractiveness, relationships, mediation

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Evolutionary Psychology - An open access peer-reviewed journal - ISSN 1474-7049 © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young; individual articles © the author(s)

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