It turns out that one piece of dating advice routinely given to men is wrong. I know I’ve heard it said for many years: “Smile when you meet someone. Smile to show them you’re interested in what they’re saying. Show off the pearly whites — it’s attractive!”
New research published in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion indicates that men who look prideful or brooding are more attractive than men who smile. Conversely, women who look prideful or confident are least attractive to men. Instead, men like to look at women who appear happy and smile a lot.
There is an important caveat: This study only looked at initial attraction — the first impression of someone’s appearance. It also did not address the effect of smiles on things like negotiations, social approval, or anything like that. It simply observes that women’s first impression of men is positively influenced if they’re the confident prideful type or the brooding silent type. Or… to put it another way, women like bad boys. But we knew that already, didn’t we?
According to Beall, the pride expression accentuates typically masculine physical features, such as upper body size and muscularity. “Previous research has shown that these features are among the most attractive male physical characteristics, as judged by women,” he says…
[P]ast research has associated smiling with a lack of dominance, which is consistent with traditional gender norms of the “submissive and vulnerable” woman, but inconsistent with “strong, silent” man, the researchers say. “Previous research has also suggested that happiness is a particularly feminine-appearing expression,” Beall adds.
It’s not a lock-tight finding, though. A 2009 study found that while men do seem to have very consistent opinions of which women are attractive, there’s a puzzling contradiction:
Men’s judgments of women’s attractiveness were based primarily around physical features and they rated highly those who looked thin and seductive. Most of the men in the study also rated photographs of women who looked confident as more attractive. (emphasis mine – HD)
So there’s some scholarly disagreement about confidence in women. This might be due to different descriptions of “confidence” either given directly or indirectly to the subjects in each study. Perhaps women with good posture and an easy smile were described as confident in the 2009 study, while women whose posture imitated confident men — prideful and focused — were evaluated in this year’s study.
Or… maybe it’s something else entirely. In 2009, it was found that age was a factor in the attractiveness of smiling. That is, as a person ages, their smile becomes more of a factor in their perceived attractiveness.
What is consistent is the observation that men who display confidence or brooding are viewed as more attractive by females. So the news is generally good for men: Hold your shoulders back, chin up, and be judicious with your smiles. For women… well… smile a lot and keep the jury out on confidence.
Oh… and one more thing: This study reinforced something else scientists know about women. Contrary to popular opinion, women are more judgmental of men’s looks than men of women’s! Across the board, women’s “number ratings” of guys were lower than guys’ of girls.
- Smiles and sex appeal don’t mix: UBC study (theprovince.com)
- Nice guys turn women off, sex study shows: Who turns them on? (cbsnews.com)