Preferred Signs of Attraction in Men and Women

by Matt Savage

Signs of Attraction

The above graph represents the results of the Attraction Triangle Game.

Essentially, the game is to pick two out of three signs of attraction in a potential mate at the expense of the other; with the outcome having three possible choices as listed below and shown in the Attraction Triangle:

  • Good Looks and Emotional Stability, but NOT Intelligent
  • Intelligent and Emotionally Stable, but NOT Good Looking
  • Good Looking and Intelligent, but NOT Emotionally Stable

Attraction Triangle Project

The point of this particular experiment was to find out which preferences in a mate that an average man or woman would prioritize over others. From here we could then infer all sorts of different theories on attraction and mate selection.

Of course, if one could have their way, a person would obviously choose to have the perfect mate, one that exhibits all of the best signs of attraction that could be possible. However, this game, and life in general will not always provide you with the best possible choice. Sometimes, in our dating and relationship lives we all have to make priorities in the various attraction qualities that we are willing to accept in a long term relationship.

Men’s Preferred Attraction Qualities in Women

There’s no doubt that men are visual creatures and the results of this survey only goes to prove that further with over 80% of the men choosing the two options that include “Good Looks.” As much as we’d like to think that ultimately looks don’t count in the long run, it is certainly a high priority for those men in the selection process. Though this shouldn’t be much of a surprise as we already know many of the biological reasons in which men would prefer looks over other qualities; it is simply in our DNA.

Also, it appears that many men are willing to forgo intelligence in favor of good looks and emotional stability. Basically, the average guy wants a woman who is attractive with little drama. Not too surprising.

Women’s Preferred Attraction Qualities in Men

What’s interesting is that even though both genders prefer emotional stability in their mates, the women had the complete opposite of men in terms of choosing intelligence over looks. With over 60% of women choosing intelligence and emotional stability, I think it’s safe to say that looks really aren’t that important for men; it’s really more about matters of intelligence, confidence, etc.

These results also seem to match up with evolutionary theory, in that women tend to focus on mate selection based on the ability to help in child rearing.

However, I tend to wonder what the results would be like if the survey wasn’t based on long term mate selection, but rather a short term “hook-up.” My guess is that their preferred signs of attraction would switch to “Good Looks and Intelligence,” but who knows. What do you guys think?

Sources and Data

Nervous that my data would be skewed, for whatever reason, towards those that read seduction and pick up artist blogs, I paid for a bunch of traffic from StumbleUpon to the survey in order to get more responses from average men and women.

You can view the data here for those of you that want to do your own number crunching. Note that results might be slightly different do to the fact that I am continuing to collect data for future use. Thus the charts in this post represent approximately the first 110 men and 110 women to respond.

What Do You Think of the Results?

So what do these results say about men? What about women? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

{ 21 comments }

John March 26, 2010 at 11:23 pm

This makes sense, as you say men are interested in looks, women are less interested looks, so choose intelligence. Both want emotional stability, who doesn’t?

Preston Blain March 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm

What??? men prefer hot women. I just don’t believe it :-)

I want a good looking women. I got to be physically attracted to a women to be interested. I would also rate emotional stability over intelligence just for the fact that if a girl ain’t emotionally stable it can make for a wild ride and not in a good way :-). However saying that I want a girl to be intelligent as well.

I ain’t shallow. I just want looks and intelligence. Not too much to ask for is it? :-)
.-= Preston BlainĀ“s last blog ..How To Become A Bad Boy Women Will Love =-.

Phil March 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm

There are so many problems with this survey, but I’ll just mention the primary one – the “triangle” is different for women than it is for men. This is obvious from the women’s choices all being in one column. The real question is, what other attributes do women look for in men that effectively split the red smart/stable column?

I think it’s more like:
funny+smart+playful
kind+committed+thinks about you even when you’re not around
assertive+strong+respected+ambitious

The question is more about what three things do you so rarely find in one guy, at least stereotypically. Looks aren’t as important as assertiveness/strength, though I suppose they’re a component of that category. But if you have a facial scar from dueling in Heidelberg, supposedly you’re hot to a lot of chicks. A chick with a facial scar from anything, not so much to most guys.

Also, I think the ladies like intelligence, but really want it to be tied to a sense of humor, they want somebody who “gets” them and their jokes and conceits. No humorless nerd types, right? Less intellectual domineering, more laughing at the world together, in smart+funny ways.

Finally, it’s not emotional stability that they can’t seem to find (we’re men, they’re not even sure we have emotions). It’s kindness, some sort of commitment to caring for something outside ourselves, best evidenced by proof that you were thinking about them when they weren’t around – unexpected gifts, surprise nights out, doing things that they didn’t ask or hint that you should do, being considerate of them when they are around.

On another topic, while lots of guys want an emotionally stable girl. In my experience they are all pretty unstable, it’s their biology, so remember to take that as a relative thing. Personally I love the smart girls, cause stability is kind of a myth. Looks, I’ll take what I can get, but gimme a girl with some serious smarts, and enough confidence in herself not to have to prove it all the time, and I’m sold.

Brandon April 1, 2010 at 9:44 am

@Phil
Hi Phil,

Just wanted to give you my opinion on your comment from my own personal experience.

I have a facial scar and it doesn’t seem to make any difference in my ability to attract women. When I was more insecure about myself it did because it showed through to girls (probably through tiny unconscious ‘ticks’ in my body language) that I felt that having a facial scar was a problem.

But once I accepted myself the way I looked (and even learned to like looking that way) and stopped viewing it as a problem the girls didn’t care and I got treated the same as any other guy.

I think 50% of the battle is learning to like yourself because women seem to be able to tell if you don’t view yourself very highly.
.-= BrandonĀ“s last blog ..Social Rockstar Tumblr Blog =-.

The Don Lachlan April 6, 2010 at 9:39 am

I agree with Phil that the triangle for women is different but I think it’s closer than people realize.

Men: attractiveness intelligence emotionally stable
Women: attractiveness intelligence emotionally responsive

Men look at women and think they’re these emotional nutjobs; women look at men and think they’re un-emotional rocks. In truth, both are right from the perspective of the other side. So, women expect a man to be more emotionally stable than them (easy) but then want him to be more emotionally responsive than most men (not easy).

So, we’ve now found the third leg of the triangle but we still have “social desirability” bias in Matt’s original survey — women are parroting what they think they’re supposed to say. Men are too. Men claim to want a hot girl but ugly girls get laid a lot. Women claim to want intelligent and sensitive and “Oh no, I don’t care what he looks like” — puh-leeze. Women are just as shallow as men, we’ve just created a social facade that they aren’t.

So, if we corrected the triangle and accounted for survey bias, I suspect that women’s responses would be much closer to men’s, perhaps with a slighter higher preference for “intelligence” than “emotionally stable/responsive”, since they might view “intelligence” as an indicator for “money” or “success”.

Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com April 17, 2010 at 2:51 am

I like Phils idea of the funny and playful part. Still its a great idea and should be considered as something new and creative.

Two Becomes One August 15, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Hey Phil,
You seem to understand women more than most men. I’m thinking that you must have sisters. Not sure about the part that you think we’re all unstable, but I guess there are times when we seem that way. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Interesting study.

rocco September 10, 2010 at 11:38 am

I love this, although I believe people are not the best at knowing what makes them tick. Ideally women want an emotionally stable intelligent man. I think they truly believe that’s what they want but I would say what they are attracted to is different. You can’t chose who you are attracted to, it just happens. For example mom’s tell their sons to be kind and nice to women and you’ll find a nice girl. These unfortunate son’s are the nice guys that finish last. I know because I use to be one. They never tell them you need to be cocky and play the game to create attraction in women because for the most part women don’t know what attracts them to a guy. So your experiment is interesting and is telling us what people think they want. But its not telling us which combination is the most successful.

Matt Savage September 10, 2010 at 1:42 pm

@rocco,
You make a good point that what people think they want is usually different than what they actually want, particularly in women. However, I thought it’d be an interesting silly little experiment, and does show some interesting data in terms of what people “think” they want :)

Master Sargent September 24, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Oh yeah, I see ugly/regular guys with hot chicks all the time. Makes me mad because I am a man and think like a man. So i think a good looking buff guy deserves a hot lady.

But that’s not how it is. Men get horny with their eyes, women with their brain.

And the hearing sense plays a big role in seduction too. Women are seduced by talking. The best seductionists are very skilled talkers.

Hey buddy, you got a nice blog by the way. Congrats!

Betty November 19, 2010 at 5:08 am

Not so sure about this,cuz I see hot guys with really overweight,unattractive girlfriends a lot too :-/
I also think another category should be added for women who want financial support above all else.

Blake January 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm

to betty
you make a really good point women seem to be attracted to men that have there life together but yet I see men that treat there women like crap why do women deal with that

Alex February 22, 2011 at 5:01 am

This post has helped me to realize what I think want in a woman, and how much it is we’re asking our partners to have all 3 of these of these points of the triangle. Due to whatever stressors and problems one goes through in life, its pretty difficult to find someone that fits all of these points. Is that what we’re supposed to find, the person that fits all of these points? Is that realistic that we expect to find someone to fill all of our very specific three points? What’s the best approach to finding out which points are best for you?

I think something that nobody has addressed yet is that the triangle might change throughout one’s life and experiences. For example, the hot guys you see with ugly girls, perhaps those guys were tired of all the emotional instability that is associated with girls obsessed with appearances, so he shifted his triangle to “Emotionally stable and Intelligent”

It’s just a matter of organizing your personal thought processes and knowing what your triangle points to next. I think the generalization of the male triangle is pretty accurate. The pairing of only two is very accurate. Generally, women who are good looking, tend to have intelligence or emotional stability, rarely both.

The female triangle though, I will agree with the “emotional responsiveness” in addition to the emotional stability. I think women value the emotionally stable man who is also willing to show vulnerability, and emotional need, and I agree that if they value that, they have to give up looks or intelligence.

This is really such an enlightening article as to my needs in my relationship.

Jesse February 23, 2011 at 10:18 am

I refuse to settle for anything but all three!

Also, what values would be assigned to these characteristics? Would someone be extremely attractive and well-grounded, but dumb as a rock? Or would they just be pretty good-looking, relatively stable, but just a little lacking in smarts?

I feel like if I were asked for my response, if the characteristics would be at the extremes of the scale, I couldn’t answer it. Seriously. “Sorry, but you should probably find another test subject; I can’t answer that.” If there was just a small spread, though, I would probably pick intelligence and emotional stability… I think. Or maybe beauty and intelligence, and I could try to work with the emotional instability part. I mean, couples are meant to grow and improve together, right?

Libran Logic April 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm

From my experience, women who already know they’d like to meet a guy for a one night stand go mostly for looks, but you have to know how to not cock-block yourself in the meantime. Women usually believe that after a period of talking, they can get you to reveal to them whether you are hookup material by relying on their sharp bullshit detector. I made a formula on my blog that works well for me, based on this idea. What do you guys think?

http://ourmancave.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/the-perfect-pick-up-formula/

B7aCkTHOrN June 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Simply, put I’ve read all the articles, literally, all the very important ones.. First off, kudos on an excellent compositition of stuffs juxtaposed easily, couldn’t ask for more. On the flip side, this whole Triangle thing is completly tenable, I should say, kudos once again…

My take to all the guys and gals, masturbate to an extent, let the body rejoice in itself, yes there are zillions of aphrodisiacs we come across every day, but hey, after all when we hardwork for something, we get the rewards right, maybe be it big loads or increased time or whatever…

On the emotional triangle and stuff, I’d just like to partake on one issue and that is, all the so called “GOOD LOOKING, INTELLIGENT, NOT SO GOODLOOKING, EMOTIONALLY STABLE fades away once you have the fire started intently and unintently, when things get heated up, and that’s where it starts and that’s where it ends. So if you get a change to hook-up, do it, live it. If you wanna masturbate, do it, BUT DON’T BE ADDICTED. Do have a policy to refrain and practice abstinence, will help you pick you up and dust off, and have fresh start, all over, instread of griping all over the masturbating stuff… LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, GIVE IT SOME TIME, ENJOY YOURSELF, EITHER GIVING OR TAKING… Have fun!!! :)

BMarvelous July 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I can agree with the results because men are visual creatures and women aren’t in to visual as much as guys. They rather have an intelligent guy.

speed November 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

It’s not about good looking. This is wrong. It’s all about if she is attracted to you physically. And its not the same as good looking!!! You may be good looking for one woman and for another not.

Emotionally stable and inteligent are important only when she is attracted to you physically !!

So you may see ‘ugly’ guys with beautiful women. They may look ugly for you but the are physically attractive to woman and you are NOT. Even if you think you look better. Weird huh ? :-) Sad but true.

Don’t lie yourself it’s the animal instinct first look on you and woman already know if she likes you physically. If she does, your inteligence and emotional stable abilities may help you.

speed November 16, 2011 at 9:37 am

Physical attraction is the most imporant because you cannot cheat. Its just few seconds and woman knows if she is attracted be physically with you…

Remeber THIS and don’t lie youself. If you are ugly short and bald you can’t get beautuful woman. Unless you are rich and famous because 20-25% of women are attracted to your money not you.

Kate December 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm

This is all a social phenomena. It has nothing to do with Biology. TV has made us all visual creatures and being that it is mostly produced by unattractive old men, well, unattractive old men get to play the husband role with hot wives. Think “King of Queens,” “Drew Carey,” “Seinfeld.” These men have created this environment for their own success with…ummm..models.

Men have it in their heads that they can have a beautiful woman, and that they should have a model. Women are told the opposite, that an ugly man is safer and won’t leave you, cause he can’t.

aashish February 25, 2012 at 6:00 am

according to me the attraction of triangle in men and women cover two pair of eyes, nose and lip

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