Smiling Guys, Proud Ladies Apparently Unattractive

In a new study, women found happy, smiling men less attractive than those who appear proud or ashamed. Guys, on the other hand, are not so into proud ladies.

According to EurekAlert, University of British Columbia researchers asked over 1,000 subjects to rate the attractiveness of photos of men and women who were "engaged in universal displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads, averted eyes)." The women preferred both proud and ashamed dudes to smilers, while men liked smiling ladies and were least attracted to those who looked proud. Scientists speculated that male pride accentuated the upper body and muscles, which have been previously found to be "among the most attractive male physical characteristics, as judged by women." By contrast, smiling may be seen as "consistent with traditional gender norms of the 'submissive and vulnerable' woman, but inconsistent with 'strong, silent' man." So basically, pride is seen as masculine, and smiling as feminine — and by this token, women who appear confident are apparently manly and unsexy. Says study author Prof. Jessica Tracy,

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.

The researchers mention a couple of caveats. First of all, their study only looked at heterosexual North American people, and so can't speak to the attractions of gay or non-Western populations. Also, says study co-author Alec Beall,

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.

Since the study only asked for people's reactions to photos, it couldn't really gauge how attractive certain emotions or traits were in a real-world setting. Maybe men didn't like the women's "proud" expressions in pictures, but would in fact be attracted to women behaving confidently in real life. And maybe women who liked the looks of proud or ashamed dudes would appreciate happy men when it comes to actual dating. This is often a limitation of attraction studies — they rarely study how people meet and mate in the real world, and it's always hard to tell if people react to photographs the same way they'd react to human beings. So while it's disturbing to hear yet again the message that nobody wants a confident, assertive lady, it's a message we should take with a pretty big grain of salt.

Happy Guys Finish Last, Says New Study On Sexual Attractiveness [EurekAlert]

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