Women find happy men less attractive: Study

Updated: May 24, 2011, 18:51 PM IST

London: Women tend to find happy men less attractive than those who look proud and powerful, a new study has suggested.

In contrast, men are most likely to get attracted to women who look happy, and least to those who appear proud and confident, found the University of British Columbia study.

According to the researchers, the study is the first to report a major gender difference in the attractiveness of smiles, and helps explain the enduring allure of "bad boys" and other iconic gender stereotypes.

It is also the first study to investigate the attractiveness of displays of pride and shame, said Professor Jessica Tracy, who led the study.

"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," Prof Tracy was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

"It finds that men and women respond very differently to displays of emotion, including smiles," she said.

For their study, the researchers asked more than 1,000 adult participants to rate the sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex.

These photos included universal displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads, averted eyes).

The researchers found that women were least attracted to smiling, happy men -- in contrast to men, who were most attracted to women who looked happy.

Overall, the researchers said, men rank women more attractive than women rank men.

Study co-author Alec Beall 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."

He said previous studies have found positive emotional traits and a nice personality to be highly desirable in a relationship partners.

Other studies suggest that what people find attractive has been shaped by centuries of evolutionary and cultural forces, the researchers said.

For example, evolutionary theories suggest females are attracted to male displays of pride because they imply status, competence and an ability to provide for a partner and offspring.

The pride expression accentuates typically masculine physical features, such as upper body size and muscularity, said Beall.

"Previous research has shown that these features are among the most attractive male physical characteristics, as judged by women," he said.

The researchers, however, said more work is needed to understand the differing responses to happiness.