Human World

Nerds: You really do have a chance

Mark Prokosch is an evolutionary psychologist whose work focuses on mate choice. Meaning, he tries to figure out why women mate with certain men, and vice versa. I’d imagine that his field of scientific research is similar to observing people in a bar as if you were watching the Discovery Channel. Prokosch told me past research has shown that women’s mate choices are weighed heavily on appearance. “In general, women prefer the typical daring socially confident men,” he said.

But Prokosch wanted to go beyond the sexy swagger which woos we women so. He wanted to find out to what extent women value intelligence and creativity.

He made videos of 15 college men doing things like throwing a Frisbee and answering questions like why they would make a good mate and what they think of the possibility of life on Mars. Two hundred college women watched the videos, and then assessed each man’s appeal based on intelligence, creativity, attractiveness, and potential for long- or short-term relationships.

Prokosch said his video method is more “ecologically realistic” than the traditional mate choice survey. Still, attractiveness still came out on top. “Of course, physical attractiveness is the best predictor of mate appeal, both in long-term mates and in short-term mates,” Prokosch said. “That’s no surprise. We expected that.”

But it also turns out that the women’s ratings of intelligence and creativity predicted both long- and short-term relationship preferences. That means we’re more likely to date an attractive, smart, creative guy, than an attractive-but-dumb guy who can’t strum a guitar and has never even attempted to write bad poetry.

As a person who has chosen to date a smart guy who can play the guitar rather well (I’m not sure about the poetry), I can confirm the truth of this statement. But what advantage does being smart and playing the guitar have, evolutionarily?

Prokosch speculated that intelligence is an indicator of evolutionary fitness. To a woman, it confers ideas of higher social status, higher income, and more material resources, which are all nice things to pass down to your children. As for creativity, maybe it will mean that Johnny will eventually be in a cool band and get all the ladies, thereby benefiting the human race. (That’s exclusively my own speculation.) Which is to say, Prokosch intends to further his research on creativity.

January 14, 2009
Human World

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