WE ALL KNOW people who have a lot of opinions when it comes to other people’s relationships, although why they feel the need to voice them — or think that the couples in question even care, really — is hard to say. Time and again, research comes up with examples of how people make prejudiced judgements about couples based on the appearance of one or both people in the relationship. One recent study found that couples of different weights are “looked down upon” more than couples whose individual weights were perceived to be in the same range.
Brian Collison, a psychologist at Azusa Pacific University in California, did a series of four experiments to explore this discrepancy. In one part of the experiment, he and his colleagues found that people in mixed-weight couples have lower approval ratings overall.
In another part of the experiment, he asked people to match up suitable partners on a dating app, and found that people tended to pair together people who looked to be at the same physical level.
In the third part of the experiment, the researchers found out that friends of mixed-weight couples actually give those people different advice than they would give to their other friends. Alarmingly, couples of mixed weights were more often told to stay casual, or to keep the relationship private.
As for why these results turned out to be the case, the researchers assume that people are just more likely to understand similarities in couples and, despite outward shows of tolerance, are still secretly prejudiced against any sort of differences in couples. That might be race, class age, or any other factors else noticeable to the naked eye.
They also think it’s possible that people’s fixation on looks makes them want couples to be “even.” We’ve been conditioned to believe that certain weights and looks are more attractive and desirable than others, and people tend to think that couples should be matched by levels of attractiveness. How many times have we heard someone say: “She’s way too hot for him,” or the opposite? Humans care a lot about status, and for our own experience to continue making sense, we want other people to follow the status quo as well.
The study concludes that:
It is possible that people’s prejudices and discriminatory behavior may contribute to mixed-weight couples’ conflict and potential relationship dissolution. Future research that assesses the effect of stigmatization on the long-term physical and mental health of mixed-weight couples is an important extension of the current research.
Of course when you really break it down, these judgments are a little strange and outdated. You could argue that people changing the norm means that there are more options out there for everyone, which can only be a positive thing. But no, it turns out we like to be comfortable, and “conventional” couplings still do it for most people.