They focused on a 10-day period in August 2005 to figure out how an individual's attractiveness rating affected how that person rated others' physical attractiveness on a scale from 1 to the hottest value of 10.Then, the researchers compared the average hot-or-not ratings for each person with the number of dating requests.
This research did not account for each individual's own looks. Research has shown that people have essentially universal standards of beauty, including large eyes, "baby face" features, symmetric faces, so-called average faces, and specific waist-hip ratios in men versus women.
Ariely, Leonard Lee of Columbia University's Business School in New York, and their colleagues looked at information from an online dating Web site called HOTor NOT.com, which allows members to rate others on their physical attractiveness.
The hot-rated members were choosier, tending to accept only dates from others in their attractiveness neighborhood. The researchers wondered whether beauty standards varied depending on a person's own outward appearance.
"If I'm less attractive, which I am, and I hang out with less attractive people, you can imagine I start appreciating different things," Ariely told Live Science.
On average, participants paired up with others having compatible attractiveness.
Compared with the ladies, guys were most influenced by physical attractiveness when requesting dates, but their own appearance ratings had less effect on their date choices.
So while a man might have no qualms about going after someone much better looking than he is, a woman will tend more to choose partners with compatible looks.
Another recent study suggests that, in general, for both men and women physical attractiveness guides cupid's arrow.
"Whereas less attractive people are willing to accept less attractive others as dating partners, they do not delude themselves into thinking that these less attractive others are, in fact, physically attractive," they write in the journal article.