Women say they prefer the personality traits of friendliness and respectfulness, but new research reveals it’s really all about looks.
When tested, women pick men who are physically attractive over those with better personality traits.
Younger women, in particular, pay little attention to whether men are trustworthy, respectful and honest — just whether they are fit.
Older women do pay a little more attention to personality, but only when choosing between attractive men.
The conclusions come from a study of 80 women aged between 15 and 29 and their mothers.
They were shown pictures of three men of varying attractiveness.
Each picture was accompanied by one of three personality profiles of varying desirability.
The results revealed that personality made little difference when men were unattractive.
Professor Madeleine Fugère, the study’s first author, said:
“We conclude that a minimum level of physical attractiveness is a necessity for both women and their mothers.”
Younger women were also more picky when choosing between the men.
Mothers, though, rated more of the attractive men as suitable for their daughters.
Professor Fugère said:
“This may signal that unattractiveness is less acceptable to women than to their mothers.
It might also mean that women and their mothers may have different notions of what constitutes a minimally acceptable level of physical attractiveness, with mothers employing a less stringent standard than their daughters.”
When the women were asked directly about the importance of personality, they all paid it lip service.
They said that friendliness and respectfulness were more important than physical attractiveness.
Professor Fugère said:
“Yet, in doing so, they assume that the potential mates at least meet a minimally acceptable standard of physical attractiveness.
However, when a range of attractiveness levels is presented, physical attractiveness takes priority over other characteristics.”
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 Evolutionary Psychological Science (Fugère et al., 2017).