WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Maybe nice guys really do finish last, after all. Women don’t view unattractive men as “dating material,” no matter how exceptional their other qualities are, a new study finds.
Researchers at Eastern Connecticut State University looked at the mate preferences of 80 young women, aged 15 to 29, while also having 61 of their mothers weigh in.
The participants were presented with photographs of men varying in both attractiveness and described as one of three dispositions: “friendly,” “pleasing,” or “respectful.”
Additional trait profiles were explained for each of the three dispositions. Men labeled “respectful” included the traits ‘respectful, trustworthy, and honest;’ the ‘friendly’ men were labeled ‘friendly, dependable, and mature;’ and the ‘pleasing” profile meant that the man was ‘of a pleasing disposition, ambitious, and intelligent.’
The women were then asked to assess how attractive they found each man photographed, along with whether they found the man suitable to date, either themselves or for their daughters.
Simply put, men viewed as unattractive were not viewed as potential suitors, no matter the level of other redeeming qualities that accompanied their photos. Those with favorable personality traits that were ranked highly were at least moderately attractive.
“We conclude that a minimum level of physical attractiveness is a necessity for both women and their mothers,” says lead researcher Madeleine Fugère in a journal news release.
Mothers, however, didn’t shut the door on their offspring dating a relatively unattractive guy if he outperformed in other departments. But the younger participants wouldn’t budge.
“This may signal that unattractiveness is less acceptable to women than to their mothers,” says Fugère. “It might also mean that women and their mothers may have different notions of what constitutes a minimally acceptable level of physical attractiveness, with mothers employing a less stringent standard than their daughters.”
Although women will go on record to say that they prioritize personality characteristics over handsomeness in a partner, “they [still] assume that the potential mates at least meet a minimally acceptable standard of physical attractiveness,” Fugère adds.
The study was published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.