Survey a group of women about what they find attractive in a man and the odds are good that they’ll list personality traits first, above looks. We value mental and emotional connections in our serious relationships, but it’s really just a bonus when nice and funny guys happen to be hot. So we say. Except that we might be lying. (Even to ourselves).
A recent study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science set out to see whether women care about men’s physical attractiveness more than we claim to.
They determined that, indeed, we do.
To test this out, the researchers asked women between the ages of 15 and 29 to look over a series of photos and descriptions of a group of men. Then they were asked to choose which guys they might like to go out with. Next, their mothers were also asked to look at the same bios and photos and choose potential dates for their daughters. One might assume that at least the moms would be more likely to choose men with appealing descriptions even if their daughters didn’t. You can’t really blame a 16-year-old for being drawn a cutie, but certainly, mom can see past a charming smile and keep track of what really matters.
As it turned out, all the women involved favored the conventionally attractive guys over the ones with awesome personality traits. Even when their bios mentioned that the guys were respectful, honest, and trustworthy. Both mothers and daughters were consistent in picking guys with good personality traits if he was moderately attractive or very attractive, but none of them chose the unattractive guys with great personality traits. They were more likely to choose ones that were very attractive with less desirable personality traits.
Based on these findings, the study’s author, Madeleine Fugère, concluded that women do value looks more than they claim to. She said that
a moderate level of attractiveness is a necessity to young women and to their moms, and they are not willing to give that up in favor of personality.
But didn’t we sort of already know that?
Why are we STILL dating bad boys? Because they’re hot.
Their attractiveness might come from their looks, or it might be their confidence or even their sexual energy. Of course, one could argue that women grow out of their bad boy phases when they want to get serious, or occasionally happen to be around right at the moment that a bad boy decides to turn into a nice man.
Madeline also added that
different people have different descriptions of what they consider to be moderately attractive.
These findings are especially interesting because they’re pretty relevant to how we use dating apps.
We might read those bios and see some good stuff, but if a photo doesn’t capture us we’re quick to move on to the next one. I for one have swiped left on plenty of Bumble profiles even after laughing out loud at their bios. All because they weren’t cute, I admit it.
This is perhaps a little less likely to be an issue in person, however. People are more dynamic in the flesh and can be more attractive than they appear to be in random snapshots, whether that has to do with physicality or who they are inside. Some people have the type of personality that comes across strongly through social media and the like, while other people just don’t.
So, women care about looks more than they let on.
Men, on the other hand, tend to be way more open about how much they care about looks.
They’re more likely to say that it’s their number one attraction. Based on that, Madeline plans to continue her studies and do a similar experiment with men and their fathers. She also plans to do another female one where more negative qualities were listed in the men’s bios. Her plans for the latter will be more likely to show if women still prefer the hot guys even when it’s more obvious that their personalities aren’t so great.
Fugère, Madeleine A., Caitlynn Chabot, Kaitlyn Doucette, and Alita J. Cousins. “The Importance of Physical Attractiveness to the Mate Choices of Women and Their Mothers.” Evolutionary Psychological Science (n.d.): n. pag. Evolutionary Psychological Science – Springer. 10 Mar. 2017. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.