A group of college students met on the first day of an architectural dig and were asked to rate each other’s physical attractiveness. Six weeks later, researchers asked them to re-evaluate.
In this study, which was conducted by Kevin Kniffin and David Sloan Wilson, students were also asked to assess their classmates’ personality and character, which turned out to have a substantial effect on their feelings about each individual’s physical appeal. For example, one woman received an “average” rating on the first day; after six weeks the other students found her lazy and uncooperative—and far less attractive than they did on day one. Meanwhile, another woman who was deemed to have below average looks at the start was considered very attractive by her peers at the end of the project, after they also saw that she was hard-working and congenial.
The finding isn’t really surprising—we all know that when we like someone’s personality we usually think they are cuter. And other studies have reached the same conclusion, as a recent piece in Scientific American notes.
But if you’re a woman, you might notice that these common sense findings fly in the face of a lot of dating advice. “Hard-working” and “cooperative” aren’t words we usually associate with feminine allure. Instead, women are often encouraged to attract men by being difficult, insisting that their dates book them far in advance and demanding the best tables and door-to-door pickup. We’re told to project an air of mystery by feigning unavailability and pretending not to care.
Meanwhile, nice women who pick up the phone because it rang and say yes to a last-minute date because it sounds like fun are told they are chumps, destined to be passed over for the divas.
Being elusive and difficult, we’re told, will empower us and make us seem more confident. The problem is, this kind of behavior actually reveals a supreme lack of confidence.
As University of Toronto professor Mari Ruti points out in her wonderful book, The Case For Falling in Love, there is nothing empowered about believing you need to manipulate and deceive in order to keep someone’s interest.
“Real self-possession is a matter of knowing that you have something precious to offer the right guy, and that you don’t need to pretend anything to attract that guy. Playing hard to get is a weak girl’s strategy. It’s a strategy you resort to when you’re not sure that you’re good enough as you are,” writes Ruti.
Sure some guys respond to the ice-queen act—but is that really the guy you want to be with?
If you’re helpful and easygoing, it would be a shame to change that to attract a man. The best guys will not only appreciate your temperament—they’ll think it’s hot.
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