Good News, Nice Guys. Study Says It’s Happy Guys Who Finish Last.
The results, they said, showed significant gender differences in how men and women rank the sexual attractiveness of non-verbal expressions of common human emotions.
One of the most notable findings was that women find happy men significantly less attractive than swaggering or brooding men – confirming the common belief that women are attracted to “bad boys”.
In contrast, men were most attracted to women who looked happy and least attracted to women who appeared proud and confident.
The researchers say it is important to take note that the study was solely based on gut reactions; in other words, carnal, sexual attraction. They did not ask participants as to whether or not they believed the people in the images would make good significant others or spouses.
Previous studies have found positive emotional traits and a nice personality to be highly desirable in relationship partners.
While more work is needed to understand the differing responses to happiness, some explanation may in part be offered by evolutionary theory as well as socio-cultural gender norms.
For example, evolutionary theories suggest that females are attracted to male displays of pride because they imply status, competence and an ability to provide for a partner and offspring.
Smiling, on the other hand, can convey a lack of dominance. This is consistent with gender norms of “submissive and vulnerable” women, but inconsistent with the image of the “strong, silent” man.
“Previous research has also suggested that happiness is a particularly feminine-appearing expression,” said Jessica Tracy of the University of British Columbia Department of Psychology, in a press release.
“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,” Tracy added. “These include norms and values that many would consider old-fashioned and perhaps hoped that we’ve moved beyond.”
Meanwhile, displays of shame indicate an awareness of social norms and appeasement behaviors, which can elicit trust in others. This may help explain why shame is so surprisingly attractive to both genders.
Overall, the researchers found that men ranked women more attractive than women ranked men.
They hope to conduct more studies in the future among people from non-Western cultures and homosexuals.
The study was published in the journal Emotion.