The effect of attractiveness on ‘picking up the tab’

According to the latest research by the University of St Andrews, good looking women are most likely to sit back and allow their male date to pay. The study started with the suspicion from psychologists that attractiveness would play a role in preferences for who should foot the bill for a dinner date.

Psychologist Dr Michael Stirrat explained, “We predicted that attractive people would show less willingness to pay because people that are more attractive bring more to the table – literally - in the dating market.” They took to investigating the role of ‘food provisioning’ in humans. They predicted that women would prefer to accept food from the best (more attractive) candidates, and would be less willing to obligate themselves to the less attractive ones.  Meanwhile they thought that men would prefer to offer food to the more attractive women and hold on to their resources when out with a less attractive woman.

Dr Stirrat maintained, “We thought that women would prefer the more attractive males to pay for the meal, hoping that this may indicate that he was interested in taking the relationship to a second date, and that men would also prefer to signal their interest in this way.”

The study involved 416 men and women who were asked to rate themselves for attractiveness, ahead of going on a series of hypothetical dates. The team set up the hypothetical blind dates and participants were asked how they would prefer the bill to be paid for.  About half preferred to split the bill regardless of sex, although more men than women preferred to pay themselves.  In line with predictions, both men and women who consider themselves highly attractive were less inclined to pay for the meal on a blind date.

Although, as Dr Stirrat noted, “Men overall reported a much greater willingness to pay for the meal than the women, consistent with social norms in dating. Women almost never indicated that they would pay.” Dr Stirrat added, “When a man offers to pay for the meal he is to some extent saying “I’m interested, I’d like a second date, I’d like to see you again”… When the woman lets the man pay for her, she is basically saying she’d like a second date.”

The study entitled, “The Effect of Attractiveness on Food Sharing Preferences in Human Mating Markets” is published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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