Relative Perception Differences in Hotness and IQ

When you’re out on the town and want to solely optimize on picking up a woman/man for sex, travel with friends who are slightly less attractive than you. If they’re more attractive than you, you look relatively less hot. If they’re absolutely ugly, you might look relatively good but such relative benefits are outweighed by being associated with ugliness.

When you’re at a meeting or in a professional function and want to solely optimize on being perceived as impressive, travel with the most impressive / smartest friends possible. Unlike in a sexual physical attraction situation, when you’re surrounded by really smart people the net gain is higher than any relative effects of perceived lower intelligence. Why?

One reason is when you’re around smart people they bring out your own intelligence. Active conversation — the interplay of two bright minds (even if the levels of brightness differ) — can raise your own perceived IQ, versus the passive sexual situation where your looks are set in stone from the moment you walk in the bar. Agreed?

Bottom Line: Relative perception effects differ in the sexual atmosphere of a bar than in the intellectual atmosphere of the boardroom.

(hat tip Chris Yeh for helping think through this theory)

13 comments on “Relative Perception Differences in Hotness and IQ
  • Nice.

    My friend has a theory about profile pictures on Facebook.

    If there are 2 girls in a profile picture and neither one is the focal point: The profile belongs to the uglier of the two.

    We defined it as another use for term butterfly effect, even though the terms have ZERO in common.

  • Ben,

    I have to disagree with you on this one. I can speak from observation and experience on the social aspect of your argument. I think the term women is too broad of a term here because there are so many types of women out there. I have gone out with a group of smart, athletic and attractive friends, and many women like the idea of knowing you are associated with those types of friends.

    In an interesting way, it builds a certain amount of rapport and comfort knowing that you have a strong social connection with (hopefully) other smart, attractive people. However, my argument assumes that people are approaching women who are somewhat “put together.”

    If you are going for the town bike then I agree with your theory. This is not to say a “put together” woman won’t go home with you on the first night, but she just may be interested more in conversation, social class, or athletic ability (I saw it a bunch in college).

    With that being said, I do not advocate random, one-night sexual encounters and the effects after them are most likely pernicious to one of the partners.

    Good Post,

  • A huge part of your theory seems quite obvious no?

    If you’re with ugly people and you’re good looking…you will appear even more good looking? Or at least stand out?

  • That’s the first half, yes. The perhaps more interesting part is the second half — that the exact same relative perception effects do *not* apply in situations of intelligence.

  • In that IQ bunch, so long as the weakest of the lot remains unknown, she can bask in reflected glory. The fun begins when someone spots her and asks “so, what are you doing here?”

    That’s when the chill sets in and her paranoid eyes follow her spotter to see the persons he meets (and slips the word out) before she could duck and plan her quiet departure;-)

  • Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke, does a good job of explaining your first point in a podcast of a speech he gave at the London School of Economics on behavioral economics. I would assume that the example is in his book as well.

    I am probably butchering how he describes it, but here goes:

    Say you are given a choice between an all-expense paid trip to Rome and an all-expense paid trip to Paris. Which one would you choose? Some would pick Paris and some would pick Rome.

    Now, say that you were given the choice between:

    (i) All-expense paid trip to Rome.
    (ii) All-expense paid trip to Paris, but no espresso in the morning.
    (iii) All-expense paid trip to Paris, with espresso in the morning.

    Now all of a sudden, option 3 (all-expense trip to Paris) would be much more popular even though you have not changed people’s preferences.

  • I don’t agree with you on this one.
    As with salary, where the saying goes “Tell me how much your 5 closest friends make, and I’ll tell you how much you make (probably about the average of the 5)”, I believe women respond in a similar way:

    If you’re out with ugly guys or total losers, she’ll think: “This guy looks kinda cool, but Wow those guys are total losers, and he hangs out with them, so it’s pretty sure he’s a total dork too. I better not waste my time here”

    Of course, if all your friends are rock stars that get laid every night, you won’t stand out as bad and won’t be able to chose from the ladies. But once the rockstars picked theirs for the night, I am pretty sure you can get laid very easily too, since they’ll think “Wow these guys are really cool, and they want him to hang out with them, so he must be really cool too.”

    It’s all about association. I think you’re dead on in business. Why do people have big advisory boards and all that, even though the advisors rarely really do something for the company? Because it just makes the founders and the company look really smart and onto something.

    I would argue same goes for guys displaying attractiveness.

    Remember the show Entourage? Of course it’s a show, but I think it’s pretty close to reality. The movie star always has a chick but most often times his closest friends get some of the fun too!

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