Put on a Happy Face

If your sweetheart croons, "Honey, I'd still love you if you gained 50 pounds," there's a good chance he's being sincere. Men have been known to find physical appearance more important than personality, but they're also willing to overlook a woman's body shape and weight if she's friendly and likeable.

A University of Central Florida study asked three groups of male college students to rate the attractiveness of female bodies ranging from very thin to obese. One group was given a short list of positive adjectives about each woman, the second received negative adjectives, and the third was given no information. The researchers found that participants given positive personality cues were significantly more accepting—selecting a wider range of "attractive" figures—than those in the other groups.

Given the prevalence of body image disorders, study author Stacey Tantleff-Dunn, director of the Laboratory for the Study of Eating, Appearance and Health at UCF, hopes her findings will send women an encouraging message. "Individuals who may not meet the ideals of beauty are often considered attractive," Dunn observes. "This study supports an important message that focusing on your personality may be a healthier and more lasting way to increase your attractiveness."

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