Women find swaggering or brooding men more attractive than happy guys, research finds.
Less smiling makes a man look more masculine, it turns out.
The results were the exact opposite for women.
Professor Jessica Tracy, the study’s first author, said:
“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.”
For the research, over 1,000 men and women rated the sexual attractiveness of members of the opposite sex displaying a variety of different emotions.
Women preferred the look of men who looked moody and ashamed, or proud and powerful.
Women thought the least attractive first impression on a man was smiling.
In contrast, men found smiling to be the most attractive look on a women.
Men were least attracted to women who looked proud and confident.
Alec Beall, the study’s co-author, 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.”
Mr Beall explained that pride made men look more masculine:
“Previous research has shown that these features are among the most attractive male physical characteristics, as judged by women.”
Smiling, though, is linked to a lack of dominance, Mr Beall said:
“Previous research has also suggested that happiness is a particularly feminine-appearing expression.”
Professor Jessica Tracy concluded:
“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.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Emotion (Tracy & Beall, 2011).