In another study, participants who read dating ads in which people described themselves as altruistic (“I volunteer at the food bank”) were rated as more attractive short-term dates and long-term partners than those who didn’t mention such qualities. Other studies have similarly shown that women prefer men who are sensitive, confident and easy-going, and that very few (if any) women want to date a man who is aggressive or demanding. The picture that emerges is clear: when women rate hypothetical partners, they clearly prefer “nice” men.
In fact, the power of niceness shouldn’t be underestimated. Some studies have shown that having a nice personality can even affect impressions of a person’s physical attractiveness. Characteristics such as warmth, kindness, and basic decency are valued by both women and men – having them makes us more desirable partners, but also makes us appear more physically attractive.
The attractive power of narcissists
Of course, sometimes we do find “bad” people attractive. Narcissists – people who show high levels of self-importance, superiority, entitlement, arrogance and a willingness to exploit others – are often perceived as very attractive in initial encounters. This may be because they put a lot of effort into their appearance and how they come across. Studies have shown that female narcissists tend to wear more make-up and show more cleavage than women who score lower on narcissism, whereas male narcissists spend more time building up their muscle mass.
Narcissists often struggle to maintain long-term relationships. Guryanov Andrey/shutterstock
In the very short term, narcissists can even seem more well-adjusted, entertaining and generally nicer. But over the long term, narcissists find it difficult to maintain a favourable impression and tend to be perceived as less adjusted, less warm, and more hostile and arrogant. Not surprisingly, the evidence shows that narcissists don’t like long-term, committed relationships and don’t do well in them anyway.