Do Women Prefer Helpful Men or Handsome Men?

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Altruism or Attractiveness – Which of the Two "A’s" Do Women Rate More in Men?

What matters more beauty or brains? A perplexing matter for women when deciding to go for long and short-term relationships. The two leading "A’s" women like to see in men, altruism and attractiveness, are on every woman’s list yet, not every guy possesses them both at the same time. So there’s somewhat of a competition between men possessing these two traits; how women rate them depending on whether they like a guy with a good face or heart.

So, to see what women would generally go for guy with a handsome face or a helpful nature, Daniel Farrelly, psychologist at the University of Worcester in the UK, tested preferences of 200+ heterosexual women. He conducted a small test, showing women men’s photographs in pairs, each marked with a letter on it. As the women looked at the photographs, they were asked by researchers to imagine a scenario in which the two kinds of men behaved differently.

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First scenario:

Man S and Man T are depicted to be at a picnic, sitting beside a river with a fast water current. A child in the river’s about to be swept away by the current; a woman nearby yells, Someone help! Save my child!.

Man T hears the mother’s plea for help, instantly jumps into the river to save the child and Man S chooses not to help when he notices the speed of the current. *Continue reading on next page*


Second scenario:

Two men are depicted to be walking through a busy town where they notice a homeless person sitting near a caf. Man E goes into the caf, buys the homeless person a sandwich and a cup of tea and Man F walks past the homeless person, pretending to use his mobile phone.

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Researchers presented other scenarios too, neutral ones, without any chances to be selfless, like:

Man O and Man P both go to buy clothes. Man O decides to buy a green jacket. Man P buys a pair of blue jeans.

(This was the control condition: choosing to buy a jacket instead of a pair of jeans gives no indication whatsoever of which man is more altruistic.)

After going through various scenarios, the women were asked to rate each man’s attractiveness from each pair for long-term relationships like marriage, and short-term relationships such as a one-night stand or affairs.

What Farrelly and his team learned:

As Farrelly had anticipated, altruistic men received more attractive ratings compared to non-altruistic men, with average desirability scores of ~3 compared to ~2.1. Physically attractive men, with average desirability scores of ~2.8, had more appeal than less handsome men, who scored only ~2.2.

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The inference made from above calculations indicates altruism’s valuable at a premium: Non-altruistic men were less attractive than physically unappealing men, and altruistic men were more attractive than handsome men.В *Continue reading on next page*


In simpler terms, a man’s physical appearance does not matter much to women as their selfless nature does.

And it is only natural because inherently, women do realize that outer beauty fades with age and time and that it is the inner beauty alone which is left behind, which has a long-lasting effect on that person’s overall personality.

However, the truth of the matter is that comparing attractiveness with altruism, and vice versa, is like comparing apples and oranges. A man’s handsomeness and generosity are two entirely contrasting traits, therefore, their measuring scales are not the same at all, either. Maybe, due to the diverse scenarios used by Farrelly, men’s altruism appeared to be more valuable than good looks. The same could be said for the photographs: if the physical attractiveness of the men was not that much strikingly different from each other, then the only thing left for women would have been deciding who is more selfless and their desirability rate would wholly depend on this on who manages to be the greater knight in the shining armor by the end of it.

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To turn the page, Farrelly diverted his testing scheme when he tested the women for rating men’s desirability for relationship types. He discovered that altruists were rated as ˜more attractive’ for a long-term relationship than for a fling kind of unexpected. You would think doing something like jumping into a river to save a drowning child strikes as generosity bordering on heroism, and it is generally thought that risk-taking heroesthink somewhere around firefighters, maybepossess more allure for one-night stands than for marriage. But as this was not so, men with a selfless heart and soul would be more attractive than those with physical attractiveness alone for women to be in a long-term relationship with.

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Furthermore, Farrelly also discovered that for women, selfish yet attractive men were only fit for short-term rather than long-term relationships. Makes sense too, if you come to think about it. Maybe women see such men as those stereotypical bad boys with a charm and appeal that lasts for a short while alone and their lack of security and selflessness begins to bug women. In fact, some past research points out that women prefer cads to dads when looking for a short fling or hookup.

And as Farrelly suggested, "Future research needs to examine the effects found here in men’s ratings of the desirability of altruistic women as well. This is because there is a lack of such research in this area, as most studies have concentrated on only women’s ratings.

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Ladies, talk to me

What would you prefer? Do looks trump for you or are you all for a kind heart? Let me know in the comments below!

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