If you have a few minutes and three buckets try this experiment. Fill one bucket with ice-cold water, another bucket with room temperature water and the third bucket with hot water. Then, place one hand in the cold bucket and your other hand in the hot bucket. Give it a few minutes and then put both hands in the room temperature bucket. This is a harmless and fun way to confuse your brain. On one hand (pun intended) you’ll perceive the water as being cold and on the other hand (again, pun intended) you’ll perceive the water as being warm. The reason is obvious – we perceive the room temperature water relatively.
Turns out that the same is true when it comes to how we assess physical attractiveness. And that’s what I want to talk about here.
In a series of studies done back in the 1980s, Douglas Kenrick and Sara Gutierres asked participants to judge average-looking women after being exposed to pictures of other women. Here was the catch: for half of the participants the other women were unusually beautiful and for the other half the other women were average looking. They found that the participants who were exposed to unusually beautiful women judged the average-looking women “significantly uglier.” In other words, the knock-out stole the show.