A new reality series is trying to answer a question that has plagued social psychologists for decades: Do looks matter in love? Dating in the Dark, which puts a unique twist on dating that only a reality program could, features single men and women who are brought together in a dark room to date. At the end of the episode, the couples are finally allowed to see each other in the light of day and decide whether they wish to pursue a relationship.
From an empirical standpoint, both men and women report that physical attractiveness is important in a romantic partner, though men seem to value it more. However, recent research indicates that while sex differences may exist for perceived importance of physical attractiveness, people might actually overestimate its impact. Finkel and Eastwick (2008) have found that men and women are equal in the degree to which physical attractiveness influences romantic interest in speed-dating. Moreover, for both men and women, people who reported physical attractiveness as important were no more likely than others to pursue relationships with individuals they rated as attractive.
While Dating in the Dark falls well short of an empirical test for understanding the importance of physical attractiveness, it nonetheless provides an entertaining way for us to observe the extent to which it affects human behavior. The show airs Monday nights on ABC.