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Type of Observation: Non-participant observation.
Hypothesis: Girls will generally be friends with other girls who match their same level of attractiveness.
Findings: I performed my research in two parts and in two different settings: one was conducted at an out-of-school function, and the other was conducted while sitting in the hallway of the main academic building across from 63’s dining hall (where foot traffic is heavy). I observed in both locations for the same time of four hours. In both settings, my findings were virtually identical and proved my hypothesis-girls will generally be friends with other girls who match their level of attractiveness. While some members of each friend group may have been prettier than the others, there was never a large difference in their levels of attractiveness. However, I did find that those in the group who were prettier than the rest/the prettiest of the group were usually the ones to “lead the pack,” being followed by the other friends or being depended on for where to go/what to do next.
There were four groups of girls who stood out to me the most. Three of the groups at the out of school function and the other in the hallway of the main academic building. Two of the three groups from the out of school function were led by a single girl whose level of attractiveness was noticeably higher than the rest of her friends (although neither leader was so significantly more pretty than the others). These “leaders” were demanding and judgmental of what their other friends did, almost bossing them around and scolding them when they did something “embarrassing” or seemingly out of character. This girl also showed many signs of being insecure and anxious, constantly fixing her hair, blotting her face, and reapplying lip gloss while staring at her reflection in her phone. From this, I concluded that girls who are pretty, but suffer with low self-esteem are likely to keep girls who are around their level of attractiveness, but do not exactly match it. These friendships also seemed to be more artificial, where their interactions were more surface level and for image. The girls mostly stood in a corner to themselves taking pictures and posting snapchats rather than genuinely enjoying each other’s company.
The other two groups, found in the hallway, all matched each other’s levels of attractiveness. There seemed to be no leader, no one single-handedly calling the shots of what the group was doing. Whether by coincidence or not, both of these groups were also girls who were a part of the same sororities as those within their group (I know this because sororities were wearing their letters this particular day). While it is likely these girls had other common interests that keep their friendship going, it was obvious that they were paired with those who match their level of attractiveness as well. Being in a sorority myself, I know that girls in my own organization will break up into friend groups with other girls who match their level of attractiveness, then will make closer bonds based off common interests. If you look at sororities as a whole, each organization has girls that generally fit a certain level of attractiveness.
Data Collection: The observation took place on two separate days: Friday, October 13th and Monday, October 16th.
Theoretical Framework: Two theories of social psychology which could attribute to why girls will keep friends who generally meet their level of attractiveness is the social comparison theory and the social identity theory. Both of these theories work interchangeably to explain why this happens. The social comparison theory suggests that a human will gain information about themselves, and make inferences relevant to their self esteem by comparison to relevant others (those who match their level of attractiveness). The social identity theory describes how categorizing people, including oneself, into in-groups and out-groups affects perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors, which can also aid in the cases where one girl is noticeably (yet not significantly) prettier than the other members of her friend group. The social comparison theory can also take the laws of attraction past the surface level. Although all human relationships start with an attraction, which is most likely physical (since the first thing that happens when we see a person is that we notice them at face value), attractiveness also continues to a deeper level. In the instance of the sorority girls, the match of each other’s level of attractiveness while also giving each girl information about herself; what she is interested in, what goals she has, etc. People often learn about themselves when they feed off of the information given from the environment around them, which further explains why people will keep those who match their attractiveness in their inner circles.
Literature Review: In social psychology, the law of attraction is carefully studied as there are many sub factors of attraction that play a role in how we pick to associate ourselves with and who we chose to build relationships with. The law of attraction can simply be defined as “like always attracts like,” which in the case of my hypothesis proved to be true. As discussed in a research report from The Journal of Psychology written by David F. Zakin with the University of Michigan, girls are more likely to choose the attractive girl to be friends with. They conducted a test with school aged children where they would place two pictures in front of a student, each picture being a different child their age. One child would be attractive, but would be described with words such as “shy” or not athletic, while the unattractive student would be described with positive adjectives such as “outgoing” or athletic. In almost every single case, the more attractive student was undeniably favored over any of the unattractive students, despite their great attributes. This study supports the hypothesis of “beautiful is good,” which can explain why girls will always prefer to have attractive friends, ones who particularly match their level of attractiveness.
In a study conducted by Cheryl R. Mitteness, Rich DeJordy, Manju K. Ahuja, and Richard Sudek, the relationship amongst different angel investors was closely dissected to see if the law of attraction applied to how investors picked partner investors or if the dissimilarities between them and other investors is what sparked a business relationship. Angel investors are those who invest their money in entrepreneurial companies. Angel investment groups represent a context of uncertainty as investing in them is considered to be a high steak. Those involved in this study believed that angel investors are motivated to form relations with those who are dissimilar to them due to their desires to receive information along with other cognitive benefits. They also examine the moderating effect of opportunities for interaction of the relationship between personal characteristics similarity and the formation of interpersonal relations. Those who interact with one another have more of a chance to exchange information which is personal to them and to observe each other’s behavior. Girls who share the same level of attractiveness often observe each other’s behavior, possibly to know how they should (or should not) behave.
This study also speaks about socialization, or the interactions that lead to the building of personal familiarity, improved communication, and problem solving. Groups of girls within the same level of attractiveness often feed off of their environments as well as one another in order to know how to solve problems in their lives and around them, how to communicate with those around them, and to know who they are and where they belong. Girls will flock to those in their environment who match their level of attractiveness and often behave similarly to each other, usually because people of the same attractiveness will be viewed as similar to those around them (in their same social settings). This creates friendship bonds, which can be defined as the voluntary interpersonal relations that reflect history of reciprocal information sharing and social support leading to intimacy and trust. A group of above-average looking girls are likely to build relationships with one another first based off of similar levels of attractiveness, but also because their attractiveness makes them relate to one another. These girls may bond over feeling criticized by those around them, bullied by jealous peers, etc., which builds a sense of intimacy and trust between them. As quoted from the study, “friendship relations enable individuals to risk vulnerability to each other,” which proves true because people are more likely to build relationships where there are similarities between them in order to decrease uncertainty and for the relationship to be more predictable. This proves the similarity attraction theory, which is the formation of both friendship and advice relations, in this case between angel investors, with similar industry operating experience. The study proved that on all levels, people will build relationships with those who match their level of attractiveness, whether at surface level or with more complexity.
Lastly, a study conducted by students in Lamar looked into physical attractiveness, social achievement, and human capital. The students believed that physical beauty is always linked together with other visible attributes, such as having a charming personality or fashionable grooming. In the study they were able to prove that attributes will always co-occur, meaning that an attractive person will never just be attractive, but will also have other attributes such as a charming personality or fashionable grooming. By studying other students, they were also able to prove that in schools where more than half the student body was in a romantic relationship, attractiveness was related to the likeliness of a person pursing a romantic relationship themselves. What this proves is that overall, people will always prefer someone who is attractive to someone who is not, especially in terms of picking romantic partners, and in the evidence of The Journal of Psychology by David F. Zakin, this would also be the case when picking friends as well.
Overall, each of these studies prove true that people will always align themselves with those who are similar to them, particularly in the area of attractiveness, supporting my hypothesis. These results all coincide with both social psychology theories of social comparison and social identity.