Men prefer ‘nice girls’ who are responsive during a date, but women may not find men who are too charming attractive, a new study has found.
Researchers from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya in Israel, the University of Rochester, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, collaborated on studies to observe people’s perceptions of responsiveness.
“Sexual desire thrives on rising intimacy and being responsive is one of the best ways to instill this elusive sensation over time,” said lead researcher Gurit Birnbaum, an associate professor of psychology at IDC Herzliya.
“Our findings show that this does not necessarily hold true in an initial encounter, because a responsive potential partner may convey opposite meanings to different people,” Birnbaum said.
In the first study, the researchers examined whether responsiveness is perceived as feminine or masculine, and whether men or women perceived a responsive person of the opposite sex as sexually desirable.
Men who perceived female partners as more responsive also perceived them as more feminine, and more attractive.
However, the association between responsiveness and male partner’s masculinity was not significant for women.
Women’s perceptions of partner responsiveness were marginally and negatively associated with perceptions of partner attractiveness.
Participants in the second study were asked to interact with a responsive or non-responsive individual of the opposite sex, and view that individual’s photo (the same photo was given to each participant).
They were then asked to interact online with this individual, and discuss details on a current problem in their life.
The responsiveness of the virtual individual was manipulated, for example, “You must have gone through a very difficult time” as a responsive reply, versus “Doesn’t sound so bad to me” as a non-responsive reply.
Men who interacted with a responsive female individual perceived her as more feminine and as more sexually attractive than did men in the unresponsive condition.
Women are more cautious than men when interpreting a stranger’s expressions of responsiveness, and their perceptions of the stranger, which were seemingly unaffected by perceived responsiveness, may reflect conflicting trends among different women.
“Some women, for example, may interpret responsiveness negatively and feel uncomfortable about a new acquaintance who seems to want to be close,” Birnbaum said.
“Such feelings may impair sexual attraction to this responsive stranger. Other women may perceive a responsive stranger as warm and caring and therefore as a desirable long-term partner,” Birnbaum added.
The study was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.