“Showing a happy face is considered essential to any friendly social interaction, including those involving sexual attraction. Yet few studies have examined whether a happy expression is in fact, attractive. Are women interested in men who smile, or do they prefer men who appear confident? Do men seek happy women, or are they more drawn to those who are demure, averting their gaze and showing shame?”
I love psychology. Love it. However, studies like these make we want to tell science that no, people aren’t really like this! Us ladies care more about sweet, charming, nice guys than the arrogant, prideful ones.
This study is intriguing because it’s investigating the psychology behind social norms. In the eyes of men, what type of women are more appealing? Confident and capable? Charming and happy? Submissive and demure? Same thing goes for our perception of men. Are we wired to be attracted to the nice guys? Or are they at a disadvantage?
Here are the results:
“…a large gender difference emerged in the sexual attractiveness of happy displays: happiness was the most attractive female emotion expression, and one of the least attractive in males. In contrast, pride showed the reverse pattern; it was the most attractive male expression, and one of the least attractive in women.”*
Which photo of the actor Shane West do you think is more attractive?
Does this help explain why us women are drawn to the smirking bad boy more so than the smiling nice guy? Is this the psychological proof to the age-old adage, “Nice guys finish last?”
This study (although incredibly interesting!) bothers me. (Partially because my dating history is full of decisions made in favor of the prideful types, not the happy types, and that’s unnerving.) But also because the men who are happy and positive should be getting the girl in the end. Movies and television are full of the opposite happening, but the nice guys always win in the end, right? Even with this apparent psychological handicap? I’d like to think so, even if the evidence shows otherwise.
Attraction may be dictated by social norms and cognitive preference, but I’d like to believe that it’s personality that counts in the end. I don’t care if that makes me some romantic cheeseball, but if we all went around creating a persona based on these studies of attraction, that would be dishonest and manipulative. Knowing about these quirks of attraction helps us understand why someone catches our eye, and from there take from this study what you will.
What do you think about this study?
Also, on the topic of the Shane West photos… I’d have to say the second unsmiling one is more attractive… ARGH PSYCHOLOGY STUDIES WHY ARE YOU SO RIGHT?
*Source: Tracy, J. L., & Beall, A. T. (2011). Happy guys finish last: The impact of emotion expressions on sexual attraction. Emotion, 11(6), 1379-1387. doi:10.1037/a0022902