Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Moods Are Most Attractive?

Women really are more beautiful when they smile. But women prefer body language that is emo or screams power to contentment.

["M]en and women respond very differently to displays of emotion, including smiles."

In a series of studies, more than 1,000 adult participants rated the sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex engaged in universal displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads, averted eyes).

The study found that women were least attracted to smiling, happy men, preferring those who looked proud and powerful or moody and ashamed. In contrast, male participants were most sexually attracted to women who looked happy, and least attracted to women who appeared proud and confident.

From here citing Jessica L. Tracy, Alec T. Beall. Happy guys finish last: The impact of emotion expressions on sexual attraction. Emotion, 2011; DOI: 10.1037/a0022902.

Perhaps this says something about the psychological bargain we are looking for, on average, when we seek a partner in the dating game. If women are selling happiness, someone who is already content is unlikely to want what they offer. If men are seeking to exchange their success for happiness from a woman, a woman who already have circumstances that make her feel proud and powerful is less likely to be interested in making that exchange.

The second place attraction of a shamed woman in this hierarchy to men also makes sense in this model. She too is looking for the success that a man can offer and if she may not be offering happiness she may at least be offering loyalty. Similarly, an emo man may be the most responsive to the happiness that a happy woman can offer, because he lacks that joy, again also fostering loyalty.

It would have been interesting to know if the results were homogeneous. Do all woman and all men have the same hierarchy of preferences? Or, are there different subtypes of people who have different priorities?

One can imagine, for example, an independently wealthy woman or one with a successful career having different priorities in men than a woman who is hoping to spend time as a dependent mother of here mate's children. Put another way, maybe cougars have different priorities than debutantes that are reflected in what they find to be attractive in terms of emotional displays.  I suppose it will take more studies to establish that.

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