Why Bad Boys Get The Girl And Happy Guys Finish Last

A new study in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion reports a significant gender difference in the sexual attractiveness of 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. In contrast, male participants were most sexually attracted to women who looked happy, and least attracted to women who appeared proud and confident.

The results seem to reinforce old stereotypes. Women really do prefer the “strong, silent type.”

Surprisingly, displays of shame were attractive to both sexes. Shame conveys social awareness and “appeasement behavior,” indicating a potential partner’s trustworthiness and desire to be accepted.

Read more here. Does this apply to you? Please share your comments below.

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  1. 1

    Great article, not so great title.   The phrase is usually “nice guy finishes last”, with “nice” in the dating arena referring to insecure, passive-aggressive men trying to manipulate approval out of women.    “Bad boy” also doesn’t work as the studies talked about proud and confident men.   Many proud and confident men aren’t bad boys and vice-versa.   Yes, Evan, I know you know these things.  I just thought they were good points for discussion.
    I think your summary of the article was excellent.  It seems to encapsulate so many subjects you have written about and that have been discussed in this comment section.   Men want woman who are pleasant to be around, who will not be competing with them in their area.    Women want men who they see as being stronger than them in some way, who are go-getters in some way ( the implication being that a happy, smiling guy is content and not going after anything ).
    Even the surprising thing about how both genders found shame attractive was reinforcing of previous subjects.   “Shame” being a sign that a person is well socialized, plays nice with others, is not a sociopath, is not a naricissist, can be pleasant to be around, can be dealt with and worked with.   The things that keep a relationship floating over time.

  2. 2

    This article seems to explain why so many of the men I see online do not have smiling photo’s – they’re doing what (in theory) appeals to “most’ women.    

    It appears that I am definitely bucking the trend (for women) in that I really do not find the brooding/pensive look attractive at all (when it comes to men’s photo’s). 

    I’m about a thousand times more likely to go after some one with a genuine smile on their face (genuine = smiling with both the eyes and the mouth, not just the mouth). When it comes to just physical appearance, anyway.

  3. 3

    That’s fascinating because I tend to overlook profiles in which the guy looks sullen, unfriendly, etc.  I like to see a nice smile because to me that conveys openness.

  4. 4
    Still Looking

    I read an article on this study yesterday and noticed that 52% of the participants were Asian.  I thought that might have some impact on the results so I dug a little deeper and found the study.  Here’s a link to the study:  http://www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Happy-Guys…in-pres-Emotion.pdf

    Not sure if the link will be stripped out of this comment but you can find the link to the study in the MSNBC article.  

  5. 5
    Dave Capital

    I think it’s really relative. Just as someone earlier said, different women like different things in men. Some like brooding men, others like socially charismatic guys. So it depends on the emotional needs of the woman as to what she wants in a man. If the generality were the case, we’d all be compatible with each other.

  6. 6

    Also, ‘sexual attractiveness’ may differ from long-term relationship attractiveness.

  7. 7

    I’m with Robyn and StarThrower68 on this one. I always look for the “real” smile in online photos and from those pics, can tell the most about a guy. Even if he was model-looking (and every other aspect of his profile was perfect), if his profile had no smiling pics, I wouldn’t even consider contacting him. The results of the study seem way off, at least for women’s preferences. I’m leaning towards Still Looking’s theory that the results were skewed due to less than random survey participants. Good article to share though, Evan! Great fodder for discussion.

  8. 8

    Hmmm…..  I’m not into brooding guys, but I do like a guy with a confident/dare-me-if-you-will grin. 

    What I find interesting is that the above study states that men are less attracted to confident women.  This actually conflicts somewhat with another study tagged to the same article.  that says:

    “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.”    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090626153511.htm

    So which is it really?

  9. 9
    Still Looking

    I was personally shocked 🙂 by this amazing study linked on the page of the article –

    “Ugly Truth About One Night Stands: Men Less Choosy Than Women”

  10. 10

    That’s weird. I looked at some of the photos used in the study, specifically those in which the men looked ashamed, and really didn’t find them attractive, but I did find the smiling profiles of men attractive. In the shame-faced photos, the men are looking down and there is no eye contact, which bothers me. Plus, these guys just look morose, which i don’t find appealing. I prefer seeing photos of a man who looks happy and makes eye contact, so i don’t get this part of the study at all.

    However, one of the articles about this study stated, “The researchers stressed they looked only at initial reactions of sexual attractiveness, and were not recommending men adopt a no-smile policy for a long-term relationship.
    “When people want a long-term relationship they take much more into account than sexual attractiveness. How nice a person is, is a big thing,” (the researcher) said.”

  11. 11

    I too am one that looks for a smile. I’ve chosen men that weren’t exactly good looking, but that smile and the joy that comes from your face when you are happy is definetly a turn on for me. It shows me that they actually enjoy life.

    Now when it comes to sexy underwear ads…well, smoldering works for me there! 😉

  12. 12

    Think of movies. How many comedians are thought of as sexy. Jim Carey has always been a really striking looking guy but I never really noticed he was attractive into he played a serious role. Think of the Truman show. The nice neighborly, child-like, naive guy was a goofy sweetheart. But the movie took a dramatic turn and he’s the brooding, confrontational guy I was much more aware of his attractiveness. Marlon Brando as Stanley grr. On-line guys that are obviously scowling to look tough look ridiculous to me but for me that half smile that looks a little mischievous gets my attention. I have to remind myself to look at the profiles of the guys with goofy grins.
    As to how men view women, think early Britney Spears, coy, virginal usually smiling sweetly or kinda pouty naive distress role she played. Obviously had a big effect on quite a few men. On the other spectrum think of Angelina Jolie, always has played up the wild child contemptuous women. If was smiling it was more of a smirk dirty girl sort of iconography. Both were very sexual but the virgin girl next door is probably the one most men want to bring home to mama.

  13. 13

    @ Still Looking,

    I read the same study, but was not particularly shocked by it.  We know that men are generally less choosy about who they sleep with.  More choosy about who they take home to Mom.   I don’t do one night stands, but if I did, he would dang well have to be a George Clooney lookalike.  🙂

    What caught my attention was a third study linked to the page that you referenced which finds that women have not adapted to one night stands.  Women generally found the experience less sexually satisfying and reported negative feelings of being used or feeling unappreciated.  It also found that women do not necessarily see a one night stand as a precursor to a long term relationship.  

    Men on the other hand seemed to get an ego boost from the experience.  They reported “greater sexual satisfaction and contentment and a greater sense of well being and confidence”…. 

    So despite the women’s liberation movement and the so called sexual revolution, some things really have not changed very much.   By and large, women still prefer to be sexual in an exclusive relationship where they feel valued and appreciated. 

  14. 14

    Evan,  This does NOT apply to me!
    I just logged onto OKCupid, clicked around to see what I really like… Pics where guys are smiling, laughing or in some way expressing happiness make them MUCH more attractive than somber or stoic (or artsy/scowling into the cameraphone) pics.
    Most profiles have a blend of photos, but I still prefer the smiling ones.  I try to ignore the other ones.

  15. 15

    Sharon #12

    I agree with you about the half-smile, or the mischievous smirk, but the guys in the photo examples used in the study were frowning and looking unhappy. For me, intelligent humor is an aphrodisiac – think Jon Stewart. 

  16. 16

    @ Venus
    IF I was virtually garenteed an orgasm and didn’t have the fear of winding up dismembered on a beach I would love the occausional one night stand. The problem is not every man can get the job done and some of them are down right creepy. So the cost benefit analysis is kinda a fail.

  17. 17

    I’m with Angie.  Moody, artsy scowlers make me nervous — makes me wonder what kind of dysfunction’s hiding under there (I don’t have that “I can fix him” thing).

    Either that or I wonder if they’re poseurs.

    (Actually, don’t love the shirt-&-tie scowlers either — they’re the type that flash their UES/North Side/South Beach address less than 5 minutes into the conversation.  What?  Did I ask?  What about all that guy-ranting about women who care about that? 🙂 )

    I am kind of interested to find out if anyone has a response to Venus’ question @ #8 …

  18. 18

    For me, intelligent humor is an aphrodisiac – think Jon Stewart.”

    Mmm.  Jon Stewart.

  19. 19

    Not too sure about the photo’s, but I find if a man is less attractive, a smile makes him more attractive.

    If a guy is really good looking, a dark brooding look is sexy. He’s just got to be kinda cute first.

  20. 20

    @ Sharon,

    You can guarantee yourself an orgasm without all the drama and safety issues.  (LOL!   I don’t think this one will make it pass EMK’s screening). 

  21. 21
    Flower White

    Not me. Unsmiling men=dysfunctional ex’s.

  22. 22

    @ Venus
    ahh but the intimate relationship I have with me myself and I would hardly count as a one stand seeing as we’ve been fooling around daily for as long as I can remember.
    @ Ruby
    John Stewart doesn’t smile often he smirks and scowls.

  23. 23

    I’ve never posted a pic where I wasn’t smiling.I’ve tried to take a few to see what they’d look like and err…….it wasn’t pretty….lol Besides my huge dimples are one of my best assets in my otherwise hideous face. 🙂

  24. 24

    This is a tough one. I love a genuine smile on a man but there is something to be said for an intense more serious expression. I think it depends on the man, of course, but I do find a serious or brooding look kind of hot.

  25. 25

    Sharon #22

    Stewart always makes eye contact, though! And like I said, the men in the test photos were frowning, not smirking, and looking down or away. 

  26. 26
    Lisa M.

    This may just be me but I think this study smacks of the onus is on women to interact with a man first. I mean, god forbid, a man should smile at a woman he’s interested in and she doesn’t smile back oh, the humiliation.  Really, have men really become this pathetic.  So, it’s now all on us as women to make ourselves extra comely, so not to hurt their fragile egos. Oh please, if a guy doesn’t smile at me when he appears interested he is usually ignored by me. I have had guys just staring at me expressionless as if they were waiting for me to smile at them first, it just creeps me out.
    This study is clearly B.S. because the majority of the women (and me included) on this site don’t agree with the findings.

  27. 27
    Hadley Paige

    RE: Lisa @ 26 “ This study is clearly B.S. because the majority of the women (and me included) on this site don’t agree with the findings. “
    Lisa, you ares entitled to their own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.
    You makes the logical mistake of inductive reasoning. Namely that you sees a statistical trend in a very small sampling (women who commented on this post) which is by no mean statistically representative for a variety of reasons e.g. too small a number; not truly random, etc.); and then you extrapolate that statistic out to the population of women in general. Logical error.
    Studies speak of group behavior. Any individual or small group of individuals from that group may depart significantly from the larger group truth.

  28. 28
    Lisa M.

    In my opinion, most “social studies” are B.S.  I believe most of them are used as a tool to either steer individuals into thinking or feeling a certain way about social behavior or whatever else.  As I see it, this “study” wants women to believe that we should be the ones to put ourselves out there while men should be allowed to put out as little effort as possible when socializing with women.  Most men I meet already have really poor social skills when it comes to interacting with  women and this doesn’t help.

    I may be reading too much into this study but it just doesn’t sit right with me. That’s all I have to say on this.

  29. 29

    A couple thoughts:
    –Still-life pictures does not represent as actual in-the-flesh impressions.
    –As much as some qualities are universally considered attractive (such as confidence), a lot aren’t. There are women out there who don’t want their man to be much taller/physically bigger than them!
    That said, the results of the study jive with what I have observed. Mostly everyone whom I could describe as “a happy guy” was always everyone’s friend in a little brother sort of way but he never seemed to be able to attract women. Most ladies men that I know don’t smile a whole lot. Also, why are homosexual men called “gay”?

  30. 30

    Interestingly enough I just read a blog post at another website, talking about the same study but it was titled women are more attracted to brooding guys than happy ones. I think there is this thing about most women, they want a good guy but they also want him to have that exciting dark side as well. I guess its to do with balance and not really about good guys finishing last. Any man that is able to balance being a “good guy” with having that slight dark side as well will do well with women.

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