Evaluation of strangers can be based on assessments of either available cues or inferred characteristics. Many studies of interpersonal attraction present subjects with information on Others' psychological characteristics (personality, traits, attitudes), but it is argued that
additional, “external” information about Others is normally available to interacting individuals and provides a basis for evaluative inferences while constituting a context in which the impact of any available psychological information would be assessed. Two experiments are reported:
one in which presentation of external information about a stranger evoked significantly (p < 0.025) higher attraction ratings than available psychological information; and a second where similarity of Subject and Other on external characteristics had greater effects upon attraction
scores than did similarity of psychological characteristics. Results are consistent with the view that external information provides a modifying context in which the attractiveness of psychological information is assessed and suggest two distinct stages in attraction responses.