Smart is sexy, researchers find

Smart is sexy, researchers find

By Cassandra Charlesworth

Ladies, step away from the Botox and get back to the books, because smart is indeed sexy.

These are the findings of a soon to be published paper from researchers at Western Sydney University, who note when it comes to relationships, equal or greater intelligence is a key attribute we seek in our partners.

Here’s how science confirmed what we have long suspected…

The study

Seriously smart researchers (who must have some seriously smart mates) recently set about delving into our desire for intelligence in our partners.

The research saw them interview 600 people, looking specifically at how relative intelligence ranks against physical attractiveness when it comes to finding a mate.

Each study participant had to indicate how desirable a hypothetical person was in a short-term relationship or long-term relationship based on whether they were “less smart” than the study participant, “as smart” or “smarter”.

They also had to rank the desirability for short-term or long-term relationships based on whether the hypothetical person was "insufficiently attractive," "sufficiently attractive," or "abundantly attractive".

And the results are interesting to say the least…

A beautiful mind

It turns out even in short-term relationships, intelligence matters with both men and women agreeing they preferred to partner with people of equal or greater intelligence.

Saying that, being easy on the eye initially helped everyone.

“We found that once men and women found sufficient rates of attractiveness for their short-term partners, they care about the intelligence of their partner,” the report authors note.

"Given the role of physical attractiveness in short-term relationships, there is little sense in people's minds to consider whether someone is smart until the most important (i.e. necessity) trait has been established to be at a sufficient level. Physical attractiveness, in the short-term context, acts as a prerequisite so that a person might be considered for further interaction."

That’s a slightly academic way of saying, the spark of attraction needs to flare first, but after that, we’re all looking for substance.

Meanwhile, men were more likely than women to pair up with a partner of less intelligence for a short-term fling, but only if the woman was sufficiently attractive. When the relationship began to move into “keeper territory” men remained committed to looking for partners with serious smarts.

Not even going there

As for women, intelligence in a partner mattered across the board but particularly in women who were desirable themselves.

More desirable women were even more likely to be uninterested in less intelligent men when it came to short-term relationships.

How smart is too smart

Although the study noted both sexes found less intelligent partners less desirable, when it came to whether the partner was equal to or more intelligent than the participant, it didn’t really matter.

But researchers did note this could come with its own set of future challenges.

"The less intelligent person is one to be avoided, as this person will come with considerable social and even biological costs, making less relative intelligence a deal-breaker," the authors wrote.

"A partner who was relatively more intelligent comes with [their] own set of costs like a greater probability of defection and even a sense of superiority, both of which may also be deal-breakers."

Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer with 20 years’ journalism experience. She loves a good old-fashioned story and getting to the heart of a great yarn. She’s also a mum to three children who have encouraged her to hone some secret skills. Nimbly navigating Lego pieces left on her lounge room floor and creating stylish Barbie attire from all manner of household objects are just a couple of credentials she’s recently added to her resume.

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