The Mathematics Of Beauty

January 10th, 2011 by Christian Rudder

This post investigates female attractiveness, but without the usual photo analysis stuff. Instead, we look past a woman's picture, into the reaction she creates in the reptile mind of the human male.

Among the remarkable things we'll show:

Fair warning: we're about to objectify women, big-time. The whole purpose of this blog is to analyze OkCupid's data, and without a little bit of objectification that's impossible. Men will get their turn under the microscope soon enough. As usual, none of this (with the exception of the celebrity examples) is my opinion. All data is collected from actual user activity.

Let's start at the beginning.

All people, but especially guys, spend a disproportionate amount of energy searching for, browsing, and messaging our hottest users. As I've noted before, a hot woman receives roughly the messages an average-looking woman gets, and 25× as many as an ugly one. Getting swamped with messages drives users, especially women, away. So we have to analyze and redirect this tendency, lest OkCupid become sausageparty.com.

Every so often we run diagnostic plots like the one below, showing how many messages a sampling of 5,000 women, sorted by attractiveness, received over the last month.

These graphs are adjusted for race, location, age, profile completeness, login activity, and so on—the only meaningful difference between the people plotted is their looks. After running a bunch of these, we began to ask ourselves: what else accounts for the wide spread of the x's, particularly on the "above-average" half of the graph? Is it just randomness?

What is it about her:

that gets more attention than her:

...even though according to our users, they're both good-looking?

Not all 7s are the same

It turns out that the first step to understanding this phenomenon is to go deeper into the mathematically different ways you can be attractive.

For example, using the classic 10-point 'looks' scale, let's say a person's a 7. It could be that everyone who sees her thinks exactly that: she's pretty cute.

But something extreme like this could just as easily be going on:

If all we know is that she is a 7, there's no way to tell. Maybe for some guys our hypothetical woman is the cat's pajamas and for the rest she's the cat Garfield. Who knows?

As it turns out, this distribution of opinions is very important.

Celebrity photos: to titillate and inform

Let's look at what the ratings distribution might be for a couple famous people. I imagine that for, say, the actress Kristen Bell it would be roughly like this:

Ms. Bell is universally considered good-looking, but it's not like she's a supermodel or anything. She would probably get a few votes in the 'super hot' range, lots around 'very attractive', and almost none at the 'unattractive' end of the graph.

Compare her to Megan Fox, who might rate like this:

On the far right, you have the many dudes who think she's the sexiest thing ever. On the far left, you have the small number of people who have seen her movies.

Unlike Ms. Bell, Ms. Fox produces a strong reaction, even if it's sometimes negative.

Real People

Now let's look back at the two real users from before, this time with their own graphs. OkCupid uses a 1 to 5 star system for rating people, so the rest of our discussion will be in those terms. All the users pictured were generous and confident enough to allow us to dissect their experience on our site, and we appreciate it. Okay, so we have:

As you can see, though the average attractiveness for the two women above is very close, their vote patterns differ. On the left you have consensus, and on the right you have split opinion.

To put a fine point on it:

  • Ms. Left is, in an absolute sense, considered slightly more attractive
  • Ms. Right was also given the lowest rating 142% more often
  • yet Ms. Right gets as many messages

When we began pairing other people of similar looks and profiles, but different message outcomes, this pattern presented itself again and again. The less-messaged woman was usually considered consistently attractive, while the more-messaged woman often created variation in male opinion. Here are a couple more examples:

We felt like were on to something, so, being math nerds, we put on sweatpants. Then we did some work.

Our first result was to compare the standard deviation of a woman's votes to the messages she gets. The more men disagree about a woman's looks, the more they like her. We found that the more men disagree about a woman's looks, the more they like her. I've plotted the deviation vs. messages curve below, again including some examples.

The women along the graph are near the 80th percentile in overall attractiveness. You can click the tiny thumbnails to expand them.

As you can see, a woman gets a better response from men as men become less consistent in their opinions of her.

Our next step was to analyze a woman's actual vote pattern of 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s:

If You're Into Algebra

We did a regression on the votes for and messages to a sample of 43,000 women. To keep everything consistent, all the women were straight, between the ages of 20 and 27, and lived in the same city. The formula given in the body of the post was the best-fit we found on our second regression, after dropping the m3 term because its p-value was very near 1.

msgs are the number of messages the woman received during the observation period. The constant k reflects her overall level of site activity. For this equation, R2 = .28, which isn't great in a lab or on a problem set, but is actually very good in a real-world environment.

This required a bit more math and is harder to explain with a simple line-chart. Basically, we derived a formula to predict the amount of attention a woman gets, based on the curve of her votes. With this we can translate what guys think of a woman's looks into how much attention she actually gets.

The equation we arrived at might look opaque, but when we get into it, we'll see it says some funny things about guys and how they decide which women to hit on.

The most important thing to understand is that the ms are the men voting on her looks, making up her graph, like so:

And those ms with positive numbers in front contribute to messaging; the ones with negative numbers subtract from it. Here's what this formula is telling us:

The more men who say you're hot, the more messages you get.

How we know this—the .9 in front of m5 is the biggest positive number, meaning that the guys who think you're amazing (voting you a perfect '5') are the strongest contributors to your messaging income. This is certainly an expected result and gives us some indication our formula is making sense.

Men who think you're cute actually subtract from your message count.

How we know this—because the .1 coefficient in front of m4 is negative. This tells us that guys giving you a '4', who are actually rating you above average-looking, are taking away from the messages you get. Very surprising. In fact, when you combine this with the positive number in front of the m1 term, our formula says that, statistically speaking:

If someone doesn't think you're hot, the next best thing for them to think is that you're ugly.

This is a pretty crazy result, but every time we ran the numbers—changing the constraints, trying different data samples, and so on—it came back to stare us in the face.

What We Think Is Going On

So this is our paradox: when some men think you're ugly, other men are more likely to message you. And when some men think you're cute, other men become less interested. Why would this happen? Perhaps a little game theory can explain:

Suppose you're a man who's really into someone. If you suspect other men are uninterested, it means less competition. You therefore have an added incentive to send a message. You might start thinking: maybe she's lonely. . . maybe she's just waiting to find a guy who appreciates her. . . at least I won't get lost in the crowd. . . maybe these small thoughts, plus the fact that you really think she's hot, prod you to action. You send her the perfectly crafted opening message.

"sup"

On the other hand, a woman with a preponderance of '4' votes, someone conventionally cute, but not totally hot, might appear to be more in-demand than she actually is. To the typical man considering her, she's obviously attractive enough to create the impression that other guys are into her, too. But maybe she's not hot enough for him to throw caution (and grammar) to the wind and send her a message. It's the curse of being cute.

The overall picture looks something like this:

Finally: What This Could Mean To You

I don't assume every woman cares if guys notice her or not, but if you do, what does all the above analysis mean in practical terms?

Well, fundamentally, it's hard to change your overall attractiveness (the big single number we were talking about at the beginning). However, the variance you create is under your control, and it's simple to maximize:

Take whatever you think some guys don't like—and play it up.

As you've probably already noticed, women with tattoos and piercings seem to have an intuitive grasp of this principle. They show off what makes them different, and who cares if some people don't like it. And they get lots of attention from men.

But our advice can apply to anyone. Browsing OkCupid, I see so many photos that are clearly designed to minimize some supposedly unattractive trait—the close-cropped picture of a person who's probably overweight is the classic example. We now have mathematical evidence that minimizing your "flaws" is the opposite of what you should do. If you're a little chubby, play it up. If you have a big nose, play it up. If you have a weird snaggletooth, play it up: statistically, the guys who don't like it can only help you, and the ones who do like it will be all the more excited.

427 Responses to “The Mathematics Of Beauty”

  1. Gwan says:

    Interesting results, but once again (as has of course already been pointed out) you’re assuming that the star rating is purely based on someone’s looks, which is not true in my case and can’t be true in every other case I’m sure.

  2. RobertJason1 says:

    Very interesting article. So, I have a theory worth a thought. If you watch 80’s movies, the concept of hot actresses (Demi Moore in baggy jeans, Bo Derek) was fairly vanilla and boring. Yet, we’d all agree, to this day that Allie Sheedy and Winona Rider are hot. But, I suspect if they were trying to make it in todays film industry, they wouldn’t become superstars. The cultural taste has shifted, dramatic or exotic looks are in now. Looks that have a lot more character and expression are popular, but are clearly an ‘aquired taste’. Nowadays, Angelina Jolie and Megan Fox are swarmed with attention. But, Anne Hathaway, who is likely considered more unanimously beautiful, has trouble finding a man. I really think the “cultural shift towards looks with extra character” is the cause. In the photos posted above, many of the unanimously hot women are more traditionally beautiful, while many of the hot-cold ones have an edge, or a gimmick (flower in the hair, cool photo lighting, dramatic bangs).

    I wouldn’t give men too little credit. I believe ‘interest’ is more of a factor than looks alone. If a girl has a look in her eye, or is wearing a cool necklace, these sort of things make her ‘interesting’, but don’t likely figure into a 5-star voting system. If you separated the voting as 1. attractiveness, 2. uniqueness, I think new pattern would show themselves.

    Now, this is all fine by me. I am perfectly happy letting all the other suckers chase tatoos, while I have a glass of wine and some conversation with Kristen Bell, and her gorgeous smile. :-)

    Robert Jason

  3. DAVE says:

    Heres what I think too…
    The ones you labeled as mixed, are definitely showing a sexier side, while the consistently cute ones are just that, cute. If guys just go to these dating sites to hook up, most likely true, then theyre more likely to go for the ones showing a sexier look. They get more hits just because of that, but your research does hold true, on average they rate the same, since some guys are repulsed by their looks.

    What if you took the “cute” girls, and had them redo their pics to look sexy in the same kind of way as the others. Would they stay the same in terms of hits, or would they go up?

    Would love to know what you think , DSherm100@aol.com, anyway if Im correct, then basically all it comes down to is their facial poses (sexy vs. cute) and you are comparing girls that average 7 due to sexy vs. girls averaging 7 due to cuteness. And the reason some people give them low #’s could be that some people find their sexy look ugly, or just find them so ugly period that looking sexy wouldnt help. The cute looks look too pure or friendly, whereas the others look mischievous, devious, or more desiring of sex in general.

  4. me says:

    curious, whether profiles of the so-rated “cute” girls are as bland as their photos.

  5. Dpm says:

    Maybe coincidence, maybe you just didn’t notice, but all your examples of “equal average rating but less messaged” women have pictures with their face less clearly shown, generally in shadow.

    If I was in your poll, I’d likely be thinking, “what I see looks ok, but what’s she hiding?” therefore less likely to message than someone with a good picture. Just like the example you did cite of hiding body type with a close cropped face shot.

  6. ndb282 says:

    Interesting study. I’d be interested to see though if you get the same results of when girls look at guys’ profiles. Do guys who are less attractive by contentional standards get messaged more than guys who are more universally attractive? Also, how much do women contact men vs the other way around?

  7. rosewriter says:

    Interesting you should provide women with data to see how they are rated by men and vice versa I personally would like to know if people think I am ugly cute or hot. Just data point would be sufficient for the end user just an idea

  8. Robert in Manhattan says:

    The article assumes that attraction is quantifiable and similar to one and all across all spectrums.

    David Brooks wrote a great article in last week’s New Yorker (called “Social Animal”, January 17th, 2011, edition) on elements of mate selection.

    You may wish to read it (it is available on line: simply Google “Social Animal, David Brooks, New Yorker”) and add some additional aspects of what we are doing on OKC to your knowledge bank.

    OKC helps bring folks together, yet only in meeting and experiencing the actual chemistry between two persons, can we determine if he or she is within the boundary of being “the right one”.

    Perfection in anything is rarely to never achieved, but there can be a wide range of mutual acceptability and compatibility, even for us picky choosers.

    Otherwise, there would be a sense of communal life where attraction and compatibility is not relevant.

    Thanks for being there OKC.

    I find this site to be a great place to set up the first meeting, at least.

    The rest is up to NATURE. We are, after all, Social Animals.

    Take a risk; meet someone in a safe place, you seem interested in.

    I do, and am having fun in the process.

  9. rtsposer says:

    I wonder if this takes into account OKCUpid’s auto notification system, you know how when 2 people rate each other as 4-5 stars an email is sent to both of them letting each know?

    I mean, it colors how I use the rating system first of all, I only give out 4s and 5s, everyone else I just don’t rate. I even rate someone i think of as a 3 as a 4 just to trigger the automated system responses if those conditions exist and I’m interested in talking to them.

    the system constraints of OKC probably add some bias to the numbers.

  10. ljz says:

    Great posting. Thanks for this. So next question is – maybe you can help your users out a bit. Maybe supply us with data for ourselves on a) how attractive we are i.e. average score, and then b) what is our distribution.

    I bet you’d see a lot more adjusting of photos, but I think it’ll be for the best. The math will actually enable the users to find their own differences and help them stand.

    Also, I am confused – are the messages you speak of NEW messages from users? Or follow – up messages?

    G

  11. Statguy says:

    Please report standard errors. I am pretty certain, that the coefficient for m1 is not signifcant. (not even at 90%). A great idea though! Try some more sophisticated models to gain more explanatory power.

  12. relativiyboy says:

    Playing up differences is a way to appear ‘unique’ and/or ‘interesting’. The “I have a chance.” concept plays into it I’m sure, but being INTERESTING in your photos is what drives me to message someone. It’s classic primate behavior.

    Give me a shot with striped socks on the Eiffel tower and even if our compatibility is crap I’ll still say hi.

    – In your male attractiveness study it would be really cool to see how what a woman is looking for might affect her messaging and/or responding behavior.

  13. Prodigeek says:

    Does this possibly mean that there are a tonne of opportunistic “nice guys” out there, with a white-knight complex? Or does it mean that despite all of our locker-room high-fiving about how her hotness is the only thing that matters, that we actually give a crap about whether she brings something more to the table. I know for myself, that if she looks generically pretty with no visible signs of personal expression or quirkyness, I presume that she probably has nothing interesting to talk about. Personally I think that as guys, we are mostly full of it when we talk to other guys about women.

  14. Saphy says:

    This gives ugly girls hope. Got it.

    “And my looks are debatable with no general consensus. Doesn’t that make me more attractive?” <– add to profile.

  15. FunGuy62 says:

    I thought it would based on the photos who looked more professional. if the light or flash is “bleaching” the skin, and if accessories were in the picture.

  16. Joseph says:

    The women that i would rate a 5. I would not message, because i assume they are out of my league.

  17. Emily says:

    Haven’t read all the replies, so apologies if this came up already but it seems pretty obvious to me- I think the high appeal of girls whom guys don’t agree on is that odder physical features that some guys think are ugly are just as likely to inspire interest in others than someone with blander but “cuter” features. Its like how weird cult movies that were maligned when they came out can inspire more genuine passion than mainstream blockbusters that everyone forgets about later. I often feel the same way about guys actually, there’s a certain kind of oddness that I find much hotter than blandly attractive ones.

  18. Alexander K says:

    Is “beauty” exclusively applied to women? Where is the male exegesis? I don’t think “play up your faults” works both ways. Maybe it does.

  19. surgerychick says:

    I didn’t think the HOT girls were all that hot. I guess it is the confidence to play up “controversial” parts of yourself that guys like? (she said timidly…). Also, when are the OK Cupid trendsters gonna put some pictures of people of color as their examples? Justsayin…

  20. James says:

    With regards to the close cropping of photos, it is rather obvious that a woman is trying to hide something. That alone turns me off. If a woman would just come out and admit whatever flaw she perceives herself to have, I find that much more reassuring that she is confident and would be fun to be with. Consider this in addition to the game theory presented above.

  21. Colin says:

    As interesting logically as all this may be, I still think its in a girls best interest to post her best realistic pictures. By maximizing a fault, in effect you are drawing in less confident males (most likely less attractive in all respects). By your logic, the cute girl may get less messages but would be more likely to get ones from confident attractive males. If she just got say 5 messages in a month and chose to date three quality guys out of the five, what a fun life she would have!

  22. Carmster says:

    I always liked the women with an “interesting” look. The magazine cover model look is incredibly boring. Cant even recognize one from the other. I do agree with the comment about the more popular women looking more “slutty” though. I guess there might be some interest in contacting more slutty women for a lot of guys.

    By the way, “sup” is slang for “penis” in Italy. I always crack up when hipster men “sup” each other. Come to think of it, why do women seem to never “sup” each other? Maybe “sup” means penis here too!

  23. redux says:

    Funny enough, I had sent a message to the pretty lady in the middle of the first picture. Go figure.

  24. Tiffany says:

    So… I thought giving people stars was based on their whole profile, not just their pic. Because if you rate someone high and they rate you high it tells you, so you don’t necessarily want someone who’s hot, but may seem like a complete tool. No?

  25. peter says:

    Despite how men rate girls, its never going to work if the girl keeps acting like a plant.
    I mean plants dont react, however much attention you give them.

    Although i’m not gay, i think these days girls act to much like plants.
    Men are typically nicer, have better behaviours, and would walk to someone instead of waiting. Girls think to often they have to live like plants in western culture and so they do, the men do the working part, and they do the shopping spending part, a passive live.
    Or they are simply money hunters, and go for the rich men only; morals are hard to find.
    I thinks thats way a lot of men are these days no longer interested in western girls, to much spoiled, and to much mentally (allowed) to play as ill.

    I realy hope there are still nice girls how dont like cities because they have more shops.
    And dont t hink to much about chopping, the way men think of sex they think of shopping.
    I’ll rather would live in tropics beeing tarzan and live without shops
    And still know how to get the right man themselves, and act on it instead of wait for it.

  26. Henk says:

    How about disabling acounts if they dont send a single email or reaction after one mont ?
    I think a lot of the girls here are not at all about dating here, they just want to be seen; and recieve some nice words by text. They never date with people from here.

  27. Charmainne (spyder_byte) says:

    Motives for messaging really have to be considered here. I was messaged a lot when I had selected in my profile, casual sex. When I took that out… the messaging dropped to a slow crawl. just saying… ;)

  28. Warren Dew says:

    I’d suggest your data can be explained more simply. Men are most likely to message people they rate as 5 star candidates because those are the ones they think are best looking. Why message a 4 star candidate when you can easily find a 5 star candidate?

    They’re next most likely to message 1 star candidates on the basis that no one else is doing it. Again, if you’re following this strategy, might as well go for the ones who seem loneliest, right?

    To distinguish between this hypothesis and yours, you need to look at the link between individuals’ ratings and their messaging tendencies.

  29. qibyitwi says:

    Playing up a “flaw” rally is good advice. A unique set of qualities, the Persian Flaw as it were , really does make a woman all the more attractive often times.

  30. Heather says:

    The question to me is not how many replies do you get, but how good is the quality? Because tons of responses isn’t great if they are terrible or not serious responses. I’d rather be in the “cute” category and get fewer responses, but more thoughtful responses from guys who are not turned off by the competition than from the guys who think they have a better chance because a girl might not be as attractive to everyone.

    Just two cents.

  31. CherryAA says:

    How do you deal with the inbalance in replies caused for example by the amount of time the woman spends on line. My own in box increases dramatically when I am on line and dwindles when not.

  32. bromion says:

    You should really anonymize and release some data. There’s a lot of interesting research that can be done with it. This is tip of the iceberg.

  33. Ad-man says:

    I agree with several other posters… I would like to see how people view me.

    As always OK Trends, awesome article. I enjoy the numbers even though I don’t trust them 100%. Still makes you think.

  34. Doug says:

    From the comments, it’s apparent that what I’ve come to say has already been said:

    1) There’s no accounting for the differing actual usage vs intended usage between OKC Users and OKC Designers/Programmers. This may or may not significantly matter, since this post is a reporting of the usage specifically, not some concept the designers had failed to convey. It DOES matter though, because there are several ways to use the tools provided (or several differing ends).

    2) I know that I may end up happy with someone I feel is a 4, but when I see a 5 I know what I want. So I may appear casually cold to who I think is a 4, but I’ll (happily? nervously?) open the communication with a 5.

  35. BK says:

    The post leaves out one important factor:

    OKC notifies people if you rate them 4 or 5 stars. So people might get rated 4 stars because “I’m interested enough to see if you will get the notification and rate me 4 stars back, but not interested enough to actually spend the time to craft a meaningful message.”

  36. xaNz doe says:

    If this is all true, then i guess we should just chuck the profiles and journals and post photos like a catalog, right?

  37. xena says:

    Could you please also do this analysis for those using this site to contact members of the same sex. I think that data might be an interesting comparison. Also I’m kind of sick of the lack of analysis of same-sex dating practices that is out in the world in general. It might especially be interesting to compare the differences of “attractiveness” and “messages sent” to bi-sexual people by both sexes.
    There are lots more variations of attraction than just male to female!
    I did however find this really interesting and am happy to note that you were at least comfortable in your sweat pants whilst doing all the maths stuff!!

  38. Charlie says:

    I was surprised that there wasn’t any indication of the “men like bi girls” factor. Lots of bi girls turn their profiles to “gay” so they don’t get as many messages. Interesting, nonetheless.

  39. Tina says:

    This is such an article that a bunch of former Harvard math majors would come up with…being one myself, I can say that the game theory really scares people. Good thing you didn’t add actual payoffs.

  40. Amber Kerr says:

    This had the potential to be a great blog post, but for me it was marred by the statement that the persistence of a statistical trend “was like a baby we were trying to drown had somehow grown gills. (This happens all the time in China.)”

    What an atrocious thing to say. Racism and infanticide together in one joke. It’s hard to think of any two topics that are less deserving of flippancy.

    Kudos to Ray, Brendan and Marianne for already pointing out the inappropriateness of this statement. I hope the author(s) of this OkTrends post will refrain from similar insults in the future. There are plenty of funny topics out there, but murdering infants and demeaning entire cultures are not among them.

  41. TallCuddlyNFit says:

    It’s an interesting read, and here’s a quick reaction to two of the photos.

    You ask what brings the dark haired woman more messages than the light haired woman while pointing to their location on the scatter plot. While I wouldn’t even try to speak for anyone else, my immediate reaction was that it’s their eyes.

    More specifically I’m referring to the eye liner. The blond woman wears her eye liner in such a way that it makes the corners of her eyes appear to point downward. This is perfectly fine when it’s an attribute of your racial heritage, but most white women don’t naturally have such a pronounced downward point. It’s generally indicative of something genetically unfavorable.

    The dark haired woman is immediately very pretty and unlike her competition there’s nothing about her that jumps out as being unusual. In addition to her good looks, the lighting and the way that she’s dressed makes her look classy and that is a big plus as far as I’m concerned.

    All in all neither woman is unattractive. If the blond woman changed her make up (or simply wore none) I suspect that she would get more messages. Most people make their judgement too quickly to look at the rest of their photos if they don’t like the first, so any other photos that she has wouldn’t change the opinions of most.

    I would also like to say, like many others here, I take the profile into consideration when I give ratings.

    Other guys may have a completely different opinion, but this is the way that I see things.

  42. TT says:

    Someone might have pointed this out already, but..

    I rate smokers 1 no matter how attractive they may be. You smoke, you stink, and I rate them low to keep them off my radar. I do the same with other dealbreakers as and when I discover them. I’m sure I’m probably not the only one given that I don’t particularly want to just block people (or should I be doing this instead?).

    It doesn’t look like any attributes were considered which might be introducing the apparent bias.

  43. Markleadguitar says:

    In all honesty, I don’t really think it’s something that can be measured.

    You can look at it a million different ways. Really hot chick. There are plenty of guys who, by doubting themselves, DON’T message her because they think, “pfft, she probably gets emails from dudes better than me” and she ends up being lonely because people just make the assumption.

    Then there are all the guys who message girls who haven’t been contacted in a week, let’s say, because they’re thinking “Oh, here’s an easy score.”

    So it really depends. Or you all could do what I do. READ THE PROFILE. If it seems agreeable, message the person and talk to them about it and introduce yourself. It’s the internet. How shy can a person be?

  44. sprchkn says:

    I’m with Peter Gerdes and I also agree with Cory. If this is based off of Quickmatch, I don’t really care how hot the girl looks if it’s obvious we’re not going to get along. Even my lower ratings (1-3) aren’t based on looks. I’ve also not noticed a rating on the picture, so I’m not sure how game theory is going to work when I don’t have any way of knowing what other guys think. The only way it would work is if I found her hot but with something that I would think would be a flaw to most other guys. Somewhere recently, I read that women with unique looks are often considered hot even though they don’t satisfy the typical characteristics of a beautiful face.

    Now if this is based on something other than Quickmatch…then it would have a chance of holding water. Even if we just rated pictures around here, I’d be sure to check out a profile before sending a message.

  45. Lucky says:

    Yet another heavily flawed OkCupid study. Also you said that you controlled for race but you didn’t feature any dark-skinned women. Are white women the only ones worth analyzing?

  46. Matt says:

    Blah blah blah, math sociology, etc. I’m going to simplify this for you. I would message Ms.
    Right before Ms. Left, and here’s why; Ms. Right’s dye job,the flower in her hair, the languid but engaging pose, and the Betty Page bangs tell me that she has in interest
    in unconventional things and people. I am a very very unconventional person. I’m OK with median standards, they just don’t apply to me where it counts.
    Ms. Left, however, has very conventional, girl next door, cute cheerleader who took AP classes and expects to end up with a lawyer, doctor, public tv admin, or some other bourgeoise standard. And that will never ever be me. So I’m not going to waste either of our time.
    Caveat; reading profiles can shed more light than staring at pictures.

  47. G says:

    I rate people according to their profiles. Yes, attractiveness is the catalyst of a 5, yet noone’s getting a 5 with a boring or stupid profile!

    Maths is not always the key, friends:)

    And: maybe you should give another disclaimer along with the sexist one. Chinese babies?

  48. bean q says:

    i haven’t even read past the first two paragraphs: already i have made clapping motions with my baby hands and let flow with baby glee in a release of tension that has built up since the void created by so many months of going without! i wuv you.

  49. agentWred says:

    Now maybe I misread it, but it kind of sounded like you were suggesting men who found the person unattractive would message her because they had a chance. I interpreted the numbers as suggesting that the more extreme looks are more likely to be considered ugly by some but also more likely to be considered beautiful by others. Those that aren’t necessarily ugly, aren’t necessarily beautiful either. And men are more likely to put time into hitting on someone they are super attractive to than the larger number of woman they are somewhat attractive too.

    Also, I suppose its possible that the ugly/beautiful girls, aka more noticeable girls, also have the more noticeable personalities and profiles, therefore garnering more messages.

    Anyways, thanks for the awesome study. Can’t wait to hear about women responses to male’s looks and how that study compares to this one.

  50. Joe says:

    Well, did it occur to you guys at Okcupid that people might use your 5 stars system not to rate how attractive the picture is? I rated so many hot women 1 star because they’re not interesting and have incompatible values.

    That can explain why you would get some very different ratings depending if joe superficial is rating the hot woman based on a 1 second impression of how she looks or if someone who read the profile did it.

    For me, 1 star never meant ugly, just “really not for me”. That’s quite different.

    Cute girls have a more universal appeal and might appear just fine but you won’t necessarily message them if you don’t find them that interesting.