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Women like a partner to be clever – but not too clever

22 August 2018

Being clever and being easy going are desirable qualities in a partner, but there is an ideal level after which they become too much of a good thing.

There also appear to be little benefit in being exceptionally physically attractive, over being very attractive, in the eyes of the typical prospective partner.

These are some of the conclusions from research published online today by the British Journal of Psychology.

Gilles Gignac and Clare Starbuck from the University of Western Australia asked a sample of 214 Australian university students (70 per cent female, average age 19) to complete questionnaires on the qualities most people value in a romantic partner, specifically good looks, cleverness, kindness and being easy going.

The questions asked how attracted they would be to a potential partner who had the quality more than a certain percentage of the population.

So, the question on kindness, for instance, asked the participants to say how attracted they would be in a potential partners who were kinder than 1 per cent of the population.

It then asked the same with the level set at 10 per cent, 25 per cent, 50 per cent, 75 per cent, 90 per cent and 99 per cent of the population.

For each percentage participants were asked to rate the potential partners on a six-point scale from “extremely unattracted” to “extremely attracted”.

When the results were analysed, they found that participants of both genders found all four qualities attractive in a potential partner – the more of the quality that was present, the more attractive the person as a partner.

However, there was an exception to this among the female participants.

For both being intelligent and being easy going, a potential partner began to lose their appeal at the top of the scale. That is, the female participants rated a prospective partner as more attractive, if the person was more intelligent than 90 per cent of the population, rather than if the person was more intelligent than 99 per cent of the population. The same pattern was true for being easy going.

Commenting on this, Gignac said:

“It is well established that several mate characteristics are valued highly in a prospective partner. But the sort of continuous measurement used in our research is making it clear that several of these characteristics are associated with a threshold effect – in other words, you can have too much of a good thing.”

Click here to access the paper on the British Journal of Psychology site.

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