Do Girls Really Like ‘Bad Boys’?


According to a new study carried out the University of British Columbia women find brooding or swaggering men significantly more attractive than happy men.

The study published in Emotion looked into how men and women ranked sexual attractiveness based on non-verbal expressions such as emotions like happiness, pride and shame.  Few studies have looked into interactions between emotions and attraction. This study is the first to note significant gender differences in the attractiveness of smiles.

The study involved more than a 1,000 adult participants in which they rated sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex featuring displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads and averted eyes). The study found that women appeared to be least attracted to smiling men and preferred those that looked proud and powerful or moody and ashamed. However  men appeared to be more attracted to the images of women who looked happy and were least attracted to those women that appeared proud and confident. It was noted in the study that the targets were not thinking of whether the individuals in the images would make good boyfriends/girlfriends but the study was based on their first-impression of sexual attractiveness. Furthermore Alec Beall, co-author to the study noted that other studies have shown positive emotional traits and nice personality to be highly desirable in relationship partners, contrasting with the first-impressions seen in this study.

J.Tracy and A.Beall suggest that their study along with prior studies may show that what we find attractive has been shaped by evolutionary and cultural forces. Such as behind why women would find proud men more attractive as pride often implies ability to provide to both a partner and offspring as well as emphasising typically masculine physical features such as muscularity and upper body size.

Further work is needed to understand the differing responses to happiness amongst other emotions but it has been suggested once again that evolutionary psychology as well as socio-cultural gender norms should be looked into. Tracy suggests that displays of shame may be seen to have become associated with an awareness of social norms and appeasement behaviour, which may be seen to elicit trust in others. This would suggest why shameful expressions appear to be attractive to women and men alike who when looking for a partner would seek a partner whom they could trust.

So do we girls really find the allure of a ‘bad boy’ more attractive than that happy guy stood next to him? First impressions of attractiveness and what we really want from a partner differ, so maybe we overlook the happy guy at first but in long run, most of us want to be with someone who we can trust. In the end attractiveness is relative; each individual will view what they find attractive and what they want from a partner differently from the next person. With further research maybe we will gleam further insights into what makes us find some people more attractive than others.


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