Women find happy men significantly less sexually attractive than those who swagger or brood, researchers found. They are least attracted to smiling men, instead preferring those who looked proud and powerful, or moody and ashamed, according to a study. In contrast, men are most sexually attracted to women who look happy, and least attracted to those who appear proud and confident. The University Of British Columbia study, which is the first to report a significant gender difference in the attractiveness of smiles, helps explain the enduring allure of ‘bad boys’ and other iconic gender stereotypes.
It is also the first study to investigate the attractiveness of displays of pride and shame. According to Lead researcher Professor Jessica Tracy, “While showing a happy face is considered essential to friendly social interactions, including those involving sexual attraction – few studies have actually examined whether a smile is, in fact, attractive. This study finds that men and women respond very differently to displays of emotion, including smiles.” More than 1,000 adult participants rated the sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex. These photos included universal displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads, averted eyes).
The researchers found that women were least attracted to smiling, happy men – in contrast to men, who were most attracted to women who looked happy. Overall, the researchers said, men rank women more attractive than women rank men. Study co-author Alec Beall said: “It is important to remember that this study explored first-impressions of sexual attraction to images of the opposite sex. We were not asking participants if they thought these targets would make a good boyfriend or wife – we wanted their gut reactions on carnal, sexual attraction.” He said previous studies have found positive emotional traits and a nice personality to be highly desirable in a partner.
Professor Tracy and Mr Beall said that other studies suggest that what people find attractive has been shaped by centuries of evolutionary and cultural forces. For example, evolutionary theories suggest females are attracted to male displays of pride because they imply status, competence and an ability to provide for a partner and offspring. According to Mr Beall, the pride expression accentuates typically masculine physical features, such as upper body size and muscularity. “Previous research has shown that these features are among the most attractive male physical characteristics, as judged by women,” he said.
The researchers said more work is needed to understand the differing responses to happiness, but suggest the phenomenon can also be understood according to principles of evolutionary psychology, as well as socio-cultural gender norms. For example, past research has associated smiling with a lack of dominance, which is consistent with traditional gender norms of the ‘submissive and vulnerable’ woman, but inconsistent with the ‘strong, silent’ man. Professor Tracy said: “Generally, the results appear to reflect some very traditional gender norms and cultural values that have emerged, developed and been reinforced through history, at least in Western cultures. These include norms and values that many would consider old-fashioned and perhaps hoped that we’ve moved beyond.”
Courtesy – Dailymail.co.uk