An Assessment of Positive Illusions of the Physical Attractiveness of Romantic Partners

D.P.H. Barelds*, Pieternel Dijkstra, N. Koudenburg, V. Swami

*Corresponding author for this work

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Positive illusions about a partner's physical attractiveness occur when individuals' ratings of their partner's attractiveness are more positive than more objective ratings. Ratings that may serve as a''reality benchmark' include ratings by the partner him/herself and observer ratings. The present study compared the effects of using different reality benchmarks on the strength of positive partner physical attractiveness illusions (n = 70 couples). Results showed that individuals positively biased both their own and their partner's physical attractiveness. As a consequence, using a partner's self-ratings as a reality benchmark results in an underestimation of positive illusions. Presenting participants with photographs had a small effect on physical attractiveness ratings provided by women, showing that photographs, to some extent, might constrain positive illusions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-719
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • SELF
  • partner-ratings
  • positive illusions
  • close relationships

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