Because our physical appearance is the most obvious nonverbal cue we present, it prompts others to perceive us with certain expected personality traits. For example, because of generally accepted physique-temperament stereotypes, evidence shows that we do associate definite personality and temperament traits with body build.
In addition to the superficial, nonverbal cue of body build, or "somatype," we also present a range of less apparent traits and behaviors which are less clearly defined by anatomy. Even so, we will see that these behaviors are sex-specific, to the extent that males and females interact according to different nonverbal agendas. These male and female differences in interaction appear to originate both in culture and physiology, although an interaction of gender and environment is the most likely hypothesis.
A review of the current literature shows that differences in gender and physical appearance are the two most important variables influencing nonverbal communication. What physical and character traits do we value in men? What female attributes are most desirable? Do we always strive for the best looking partner?
Generally, the sexes are attracted to one another on the basis of what Walster and her colleagues called the "matching hypothesis" (cited in Knapp, 1989, p. 159). The matching hypothesis argues that we may be attracted to only the best-looking partners, but we will accept someone at least as good looking as we are. In other words, we are realistic in our approach to matching ourselves with prospective partners.
A survey of the literature dealing with behavior based on attractiveness reiterates the two themes described above: the importance of physical attractiveness and the importance of similarity. Elaine Hatfield and her associates (cited in Schellenberg, 1993, p. 126) planned a field experiment to test the "matching hypothesis." The hypothesis leads us to expect that people wi...