Kononov, N., & Ein-Gar, D. (2023). Beautiful Strangers: Physical Evaluation of Strangers Is Influenced by Friendship Expectation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

People tend to evaluate themselves as better than they actually are. Such enhanced positive evaluation occurs not only for the self but also for close others. We extend the exploration of enhanced evaluation of close others to that of strangers. We predict that when individuals consider becoming friends with a stranger, their preference for a pleasant physical experience will drive an enhanced evaluation of that person. In two experiments, participants who considered friendship with a stranger evaluated the stranger as looking, sounding, and smelling better than how control participants evaluated them. The amount of time participants expected to spend with the stranger predicted their evaluation (Studies 1–2). In a large-scale third study, using various target stimuli, we found that when participants have an interest in a friendship but then are unable to physically spend time together, the enhanced-evaluation effect is weaker compared with when they could spend time together.



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