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Study: Women find happy men less sexually attractive

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A new study from the University of British Columbia, exploring gender differences in the attractiveness of smiles, shows that women find happy men much less sexually attractive than those who brood and look proud and powerful, or even moody and ashamed, helping explain the stereotype of the appealing "bad boy." The study also finds, not surprisingly, that men are just the opposite, finding happy women more sexually attractive, while being less turned on by those who appear proud and confident. So I guess it works itself out as happy men get rejected, become moody and ashamed, and thus become more attractive to women.

The study involved over 1,000 participants rating the sexual attractiveness of photos of the opposite sex, which included universal displays of happiness, pride and shame. Researchers said that, overall, men rank women more attractive than vice versa. And keeping in mind that moody brooders might wear thin after awhile, study co-author Alec Beall explained, "It is important to remember that this study expored first impressions of sexual attraction to images of the opposite sex. We were not asking participants if they thought these targets would make a good boyfriend or wife – we wanted their gut reactions on carnal, sexual attraction."

Lead researcher Jessica Tracy and Mr. Beall explained that previous studies have suggested that what people find attractive has been influenced by centuries of evolutionary and cultural forces. Those caveman values of protecting and providing for one's mate and offspring, evolutionary theories suggest, still attract females today, as manifested in male displays of pride implying status and competence. That's why Arnold Schwarzenegger can go around banging the help while others just write about it.

Tracy and Beall said further research is required to fully grasp the differing responses to happiness, but indicated that principles of evolutionary psychology and socio-cultural gender norms can help explain the phenomenon, such as prior research that linked smiling to a lack of dominance. This would square with the traditional gender role of the "submissive and vulnerable" woman, contrasted with the "strong, silent" Gary Cooper-type man.