Here’s a shocking revelation: men like physically beautiful women. And if reinforcing one stereotype isn’t enough for you, here’s another: apparently, women are attracted to wealth. So says Indiana University cognitive scientist Peter Todd and colleagues from Germany, England and Scotland, who used a speed dating session in Germany to compare what men and women said they wanted in a mate with whom they actually chose. The results of the study will be published shortly in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Now, we’re not sure how scientific speed dating—where people have “mini dates” of 3 to 5 minutes with as many as 30 other singles—really is, and the sample size of only 46 people isn’t exactly conclusive, but the results are certainly in line with what we’ve said in our book, The Beauty Prescription. The researchers say that when they were surveyed before the speed dating, participants gave socially acceptable answers to what they wanted in a significant other—intellect, sense of humor, and so on. But when it came to selecting people in a face-to-face setting, the men went for physical attractiveness most often, and the women were drawn to material wealth and security.
This isn’t surprising to us. We’ve written about it, and the results of this study are in line with the predictions of evolutionary psychology, which say that based on our desire for survival, ancient men were attracted to clear skin, glossy hair and physical symmetry because women with those features were more likely to be healthy and thus more successfully bear lots of children. As for the women, who were physically weaker, they were drawn to men with a greater ability to provide, protect and provide security for the family. As Todd said, ancient males and females who chose mates in this way would have had a better chance of producing lots of offspring, giving them an evolutionary advantage.
Reductive? Sure, but it illustrates that at first glance, we’re still driven by our sense of innate beauty, that hard-wired ideal that’s a product of millennia of evolution. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s part of who and what we are as men and women. But the limit of studies like this is that we should take them at face value and no more, because they don’t measure the other aspect our beauty sense, evolving beauty. Speed dating is about instant impressions, and when we have nothing else to go on, it makes sense to choose the guy with the $3,000 Rolex or the woman with the great cheekbones and dazzling smile. What this study doesn’t do is follow up to see what happened after these men and women spent more time together, after they got to know each other and saw the more subtle aspects of each other’s beauty: wit, spirituality, sex appeal, physical surroundings, relationships, career and so on. Time changes how we perceive beauty, which is why women who are not supermodels usually find their own Prince Charmings. Once we start to see the entire person, not just the facsimile that we see in 3 to 5 minutes, we find that beauty exists at many subtle, intriguing levels, inside and out.
Something to be aware of if you ever decide to speed date. For our part, we’ll stick to the slow version.
Debi & Eva