Q: Do fancy cars really make people more attractive? Does my car matter?
A: Hate to break it to you, but yeah. A high-prestige car will increase your attractiveness vs. a “normal” car. Here’s the study.
It may be an unfortunate fact of life, but women are, on average, more attracted to signals of wealth and status:
Men, by contrast, are more interested in physical attractiveness.
In Western societies, wealth and economic resources are displayed with high-prestige material possessions (cars, accessories, clothing, houses, etc.).
Thus, some researchers suggested that men would be perceived as more attractive by women if they were seen with a material indicator of wealth.
They also predicted that the same wouldn’t be true of men rating women (women’s attractiveness ratings wouldn’t change for the men depending on material wealth indicators).
The results of this study were published in the British Journal of Psychology in 2010.
First, the researchers recruited 150 undergraduate students from the University of Wales to rate some pictures of people on attractiveness.
- A male and a female were chosen as most attractive out of that study, and photographs of those individuals were used for the main study.
Then, the researchers got 100 undergraduate participants to rate the aesthetics/prestige of different cars.
- The researchers settled on a photograph of a silver Bentley Continental GT (high prestige) and a red Ford Fiesta ST (neutral prestige) to use in the main study.
The researchers then prepared a series of photographs of the models in the cars and without the cars in different combinations. The photographs were done as consistently as possible (lighting, orientation) and the models were photographed in the car so their bodies weren’t visible.
- 240 participants from downtown Cardiff (in Wales, UK) were recruited to answer questions in this experiment.
- Demographic questions about the participants were included (e.g., sex, age, sexual orientation).
- The participants were randomly shown one of the photographs and were asked to rate the attractiveness of the person in the photograph.
The male and the female in the study were rated as generally the same in attractiveness.
The Bentley was rated as more aesthetically pleasing than the Ford.
Most importantly, men rated the woman as around a 7 whether she was in the neutral- or high-status car. The car didn’t seem to matter.
But for women, the man was rated as significantly higher in the high-status car.
On a scale of 1-10, the high-status car gave the man a 1-point boost on average (from around a 6 to around a 7).
What can we learn here?
Pretty simple and self-explanatory. The theory is that men get a boost from high-status material objects that indicate wealth. This is because, in general, women are more attracted to men who can provide economic security.
Thus, a high-prestige Bentley gave the man a one-point boost in attractiveness (on a scale of 1-10 points) to women.
Men are less concerned with women providing economic security. Therefore, the woman was rated the same in attractiveness by men no matter what she was driving.
The take-away is that high-status material possessions may give you a boost in attractiveness to women.
Dunn, M. J., & Searle, R. (2010). Effect of manipulated prestige-car ownership on both sex attractiveness ratings. British Journal of Psychology, 101, 69-80. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19302732/