Here Are 8 Things That Are Making People Less Attractive, According To Science

Here Are 8 Things That Are Making People Less Attractive, According To Science


Forget the Law of Attraction. What’s the Science of Unattraction? Find out what the research has to say about what makes us less-than desirable.

1. Asymmetry

Poets say that beauty is ineffable and indescribable and mysterious or whatever. Science says that’s rubbish. In fact, psychologists have uncovered the mathematical rules behind what we call “a pretty face,” and it’s disappointingly, even discouragingly, simple.

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People prefer symmetrical faces. That’s it. That’s the big secret. Well, people also gravitate toward “average” proportions, so people whose facial features are right in the middle of the population in terms of size and “layout,” for lack of a better word, are seen as more attractive. But those are the only two factors, at least in terms of initial aesthetic preference.

“People’s faces usually only differ subtly in symmetry,” Anthony Little, a University of Stirling psychologist, told education site Science News for Students. “So symmetry looks normal to us, and then we like it.”

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So what can you do if your proportions are all off? You can always be funny. That seriously works.

2. Off-Putting Body Language

When your body language remains closed off, maybe even a bit foreboding, that makes you seem less attractive. Scientists proved it not long ago.

That’s right. In 2016, a team of researchers from a handful of universities published a paper called “Dominant, open nonverbal displays are attractive at zero-acquaintance.” If you regularly follow the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, you might have read it. If not, allow us to explain.


Researchers took a group of assistants and had them make two dating app profiles (the study doesn’t say which app). In the first profile, the assistants were depicted adopting a “contractive” pose—arms crossed, shoulders hunched, et cetera. In the second, they took an “expansive” pose, like raising their arms in victory or reaching toward an object.

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Same people. Different pics. The unwitting participants in the study overwhelmingly chose to swipe right (literally or metaphorically) on the pictures that featured expansive poses.

3. Lack of Sufficient Sleep

This goes way deeper than bags under the eyes. A team of researchers in Stockholm, Sweden, devised an experiment to see just how real beauty sleep can be. They took 23 unfortunate test subjects between the ages of 18 and 31 and photographed them after a nice, 8-hour sleep.

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Then they kept the poor lab folks awake for 31 hours. The published study doesn’t mention exactly how they kept them awake so long, but we have to assume they have a pretty loud stereo at the sleep laboratory.

Anyway, armed with two sets of pictures of the same group of people, the researchers asked 65 strangers to rate them on attractiveness. Unsurprisingly, subjects looked “less healthy” and “less attractive” after this extreme sleep deprivation.


The study concludes, a bit cheekily if you ask us, “our results provide important insights into judgments about health and attractiveness that are reminiscent of the anecdotal wisdom harbored in …the colloquial notion of ‘beauty sleep.'”

4. Being Lazy

Here’s another reason to haul yourself off the couch and help out every once in awhile. It turns out that being seen as lazy can wreak havoc on your attractiveness score. Not that anyone’s keeping score.


Except that someone actually did keep score. Their names were Kevin Kniffin and David Wilson, and they’re authors of a paper that proves the laziness theory, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior in 2004.

They took an incoming archaeology class and had them all rate each other on certain personality traits and general attractiveness. After the 6-week course was over, the researchers asked the questions all over again. Subjects who scored low on “effort” saw their attractiveness numbers drop significantly.


“If we were to state our results in the form of a beauty tip,” the authors concluded, “It would be, ‘If you want to enhance your physical attractiveness, become a valuable social partner.'”

5. Lack of Humor

We’ve already established that being funny can make you seem more attractive. It seems that the opposite is also true. Being a humorless lump can even make a chiseled hunk start to look a little “blah.”

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This information comes to us courtesy of a 2009 psychological study from the University of California, San Diego. Researchers exposed their subjects to “vignettes,” then had them pick the folks they’d like to go out with. The clowns got all the love. (They weren’t literal clowns, we don’t think, but the scenes were described as “vignettes,” so who knows?)

Incredibly, humor seemed to be the dominant trait that subjects found attractive. Average senses of humor scored lower for attractiveness than great senses of humor. A nonexistent taste for cracking wise was a non-starter.

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This study “found no significant interaction between gender and humor,” meaning that both men and women preferred funny partners. So there is hope for all of the sad comedians out there. The way to anyone’s heart is through their funny bone.

6. Mean Muggin’

If you’re trying to win love by projecting a tough image, you’re sneering up the wrong tree. That’s because science suggests that people don’t find “evil” or “mean” folks that attractive.

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That might come as news to all the vampiric anti-heroes of the world, but the evidence is pretty hard to refute. Consider this: In 2014, Chinese researchers conducted an experiment to find out whether “personality manipulations…modulate facial attractiveness ratings.”

In other words, do perceived personalities make people more or less attractive (or even more-or-less attractive, which is what we’ve always aspired to)?

The answer seems to be yes. Study subjects looked at a collection of portraits of people bearing blank expressions. But the photos were labeled. Some bore the Chinese word for “decent” or “honest.” Others were marked as “mean” and “evil.”

The evil folks lost this battle. Participants overwhelmingly called the decent folk more attractive. That’s nice news for nice guys.

7. Being Stressed Out

You know that old saying that warns us not to “let them see you sweat?” That old chestnut got it wrong. People can actually sense you sweat, if this study from the journal Biology Letters is accurate.

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Researchers theorized that women find men attractive in part because a handsome face is somehow an indication of a healthy immune system. Don’t ask us where they got that idea.

Anyway, they were trying to test that theory on women’s facial attractiveness, so they got a bunch of Latvian women, shot them up with hepatitis B vaccine, and had men look at their faces to decide who was the hottest of them all.

As part of this study, the researchers were measuring the subjects’ cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and when levels are high, you’re under pressure.

Getty Images News / Joe Raedle

Researchers didn’t find any correlation between antibodies and attractiveness in women (which is strange, because previous studies did find that link in men). But the cortisol did seem to make a difference. The men found women with higher cortisol levels to be less attractive—despite the fact that they had no information about these women’s cortisol levels.

8. Plain Old Untrustworthiness

“I cannot tell a lie,” said young George Washington. “I cut down the cherry tree.”

That’s the kind of attitude that later helped Washington hook up with Martha. People dig honesty, and we can prove it. At least, we can cite someone who sort of proved it.

John-Mark Kuznietsov

In 2006, Sampo V. Paunonen, of the University of Western Ontario, published a study called “You are honest, therefore I like you and find you attractive” in the Journal of Research in Personality .

Paunonen handed short descriptive paragraphs about fictional men and women. The characters were all over the map, ethics-wise; they were described as having three personality characteristics, or their opposites. The characters were smart (or they weren’t), independent (or hopelessly clingy), and honest (or fibbers).

William Stitt

Then Paunonen asked the subjects to measure the characters’ attractiveness. The only characteristic that had any link to that attractiveness score was honesty. People were attracted to the honest characters.

Hey, don’t blame us. We’re just being honest.