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Most single peeps I talk with about dating and relationships seem to think that most people use physical attractiveness as their number one screening tool. Next is sense of humor.
But if you’re a guy, it turns out that women don’t actually use looks as their number one “must have”. What will really get a woman’s attention is how generous you are, according to a new study in Evolutionary Psychology.
Researchers from the University of Worcester in the UK showed more than 200 women pictures of the same two men—one more attractive, one less—in different scenarios. In total there were 12 scenarios, 8 of which displayed altruistic conditions and 4 of which were neutral.
The study confirmed that women found men who behaved altruistically more desirable then those who did not, regardless of how good looking they were. To put it another way, ladies opt for a less attractive fellow if he is generous over a hot-but-selfish guy.
The researchers also found – no surprise here – that the preference for altruistic men was also further influenced by their physical attractiveness…meaning that attractive men became significantly more so when they were altruistic.
“Possibly most interestingly, we found that if a women could choose only one of these traits for a long term partner, then it would be more likely that he was altruistic than physically attractive,” said study author Daniel Farrelly, Ph.D., senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Worcester.
What’s all the hubbub?
Researchers posit that this is a biological motivation – altruistic men will be better partners and better fathers. In his article, Farrally explained: “One thing that is important in mate selection are signals that a long-term partner has the necessary psychological characteristics to indicate that he will be a good father, including kindness, generosity, and an altruistic nature.”
Interestingly, the opposite was actually true for short term relationships —women found generous guys specifically less attractive. Now this is a topic for another day.
To be sure, being generous has other benefits. Scientists at the Interdisciplinary Program for Empathy and Altruism Research theorize that volunteering and being generous is good for one’s health and well-being because it means getting off the couch and out of the house, so it makes us stronger and more physically fit. More physically fit people tend to deal with stress better, which can help them live longer lives. Being generous and volunteering also create social connections. We are hard-wired for face-to-face contact that includes lots of touch, eye contact, and smiles. Such interactions release a hormone called oxytocin, which helps us to bond and care for others, and also helps us to handle stress better. Volunteering is a good way to meet others, make friends, and bond over common beliefs and goals. (And we all know by now how important it is to develop a good social network.) Lastly, being generous and volunteering just feels good. Volunteering can give us a deep sense of happiness, which is also associated with longer and healthier lives.
So are you screwed if you don’t volunteer at a soup kitchen? Not really. You can show your charitable side with anything where there is clearly a cost involved whether in time or finances, Farrally said. You have a few options:
- Financial philanthropy, like giving a dollar to a homeless person or adopting an endangered animal in the local zoo.
- Giving your time, like volunteering or helping out in a local charity shop.
- Enduring physical costs, like donating blood or bone marrow.
- Any heroic act (not so much throwing yourself in front of a bus … more like rescuing a stranded kitten from up a tree).
- Displaying compassion and kindness.