Michela Schröder-Abé, Katrin Rentzsch, Jens Asendorpf and Lars Penke

Good enough for an affair. Self-enhancement of attractiveness, interest in potential mates, and popularity as a mate.

European Journal of Personality

Using data from the Berlin Speed Dating Study, we tested rival hypotheses concerning the effects of self-enhancement of attractiveness on dating outcomes. Three hundred eighty-two participants took part in one of the 17 speed-dating sessions. After each speed-dating interaction, participants indicated how interesting they found the respective person as a long-term and short-term partner. Using social relations analyses, we computed perceiver effects (being more or less choosy) and target effects (being rated as more or less interesting) of long-term and short-term partner ratings. Self-enhancement was operationalized as the discrepancy between self-rated attractiveness and four components of actual attractiveness (observer-rated facial and vocal attractiveness, height and body mass index). Results indicated that self-enhancers were less choosy with respect to their interest for short-term partners, which was especially true for men, but more choosy with respect to long-term partners. With regard to popularity as a mate, potential partners indicated that they found self-enhancers more interesting as short-term partners but not as long-term partners. As self-enhancement is a key component of narcissism, these results are consistent with findings that narcissists perceive many sexual affairs as an achievement, while preferring selected ‘trophy’ long-term partners, and narcissists have a charming appeal for short-term, but not lasting, social relationships.