How many times have you read online dating profiles which include seemingly meaningless content such as?

  • I like romantic walks on the beach, but equally I like to stay in with a glass of wine.
  • I like going out and I like staying in.
  • I have been told that I’m .... (list of positive adjectives)
  • My family are really important to me
  • I have a great life and I just need someone to share it

These descriptions say very little, so what can you say to give yourself an advantage in online dating? 

Evolutionary psychology tells us that men seek female partners who are physically attractive and one of the factors females are looking for in a male partner is resources.  However, once enough of these desired characteristics have been satisfied, then creativity is the characteristic which seems to be sought by both males and females (Li, Bailey, Kenrick & Linsenmeier, 2002).  Indeed, Nettle and Clegg (2006) found that artists had significantly more sexual partners than other individuals, suggesting that overall creativity appears to be seen as attractive.

Is it the same for males and females?

Clegg, Nettle & Miell (2011) looked at how mating success and artistic success were related.  They employed a sample of 236 artists, 64% of whom were female.  The degree of artistic success was measured on self-reported items such as ‘are you a professional, serious or hobby artist?  The number of exhibitions held, the number of days their art was displayed, the price range of the art sold and the percentage of their income respondents earned from their art.  The researchers also asked about the number of sexual partners respondents had.  They found a gender difference in as much as artistic success predicted number of sexual partners for males but not for females. 

Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock
Source: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

In addition to art, there is a gender difference in other creative pursuits that are related to the number of sexual partners reported for men, but not for women.  Beaussart, Kaufman & Kaufman (2012) questioned over 700 college students on the amount of time they had spent in the last year on things such as painting pictures, taking photographs, and writing poetry or computer programs.  The researchers also collected data on number of sexual partners respondents had in the past year.  Again the findings indicated that the number of sexual partners predicted creative activity for males but not for females.  Overall then the evidence suggest that artistic and creative pursuits predict mating success for males but not for females.

Why is creativity attractive?

The explanation may be that creativity in males is an outward indicator of creative intelligence.  If a male is creatively intelligent, then he possesses good (creative) genes.  The argument is that females prefer to reproduce with males who possess good genes, because this will mean that their offspring (who will also likely possess these genes) will also be intelligent and stand a better chance in life.  Evidence for this comes from Haselton and Miller (2006) who found a correlation between ovulation in females and preference for more creative males for short term relationships.  Furthermore, Miller (2009) suggests that what we might refer to as creative displays, as are evidenced by things such as art, music or humour, are the modern day human equivalent to the peacock’s tail an indicator of  reproductive fitness.  In human males, displays of creativity indicate male prowess in terms of superior cognitive ability.

Are all creative endeavours equally attractive?

An interesting study by Nicolas Gueguen and colleagues from the University of South Brittany, France employed a young male researcher who walked around a city attempting to obtain the phone numbers of 300 young females.  The male researcher appeared in three guises, carrying a guitar, carrying a sports bag or carrying nothing at all.  He was more successful at obtaining the phone numbers when he carried the guitar than in either of the other guises.  The explanation for this finding is that as the guitar signified that he was creative, the females found this more attractive as indicated by them being willing to reveal their phone numbers (Gueguen, Meineri & Fischer-Lokou, 2014). 

What creative activities are judged as most and least attractive?

According to Kaufman, Kozbelt, Silva, Kaufman, Ramesh & Feist (2014), the activities judged to be most creative are:

  • Playing sports
  • Taking a date on a spontaneous trip
  • Recording music
  • Making a clever remark
  • Writing music
  • Performing in a band
  • Taking artistic photos

Those rated as least attractive are:

  • Making websites
  • Writing a computer program
  • Interior decorating
  • Making ad campaigns
  • Making clothes
  • Everyday domestic items

The overall message here is that by advertising themselves as creative on dating sites, males, but not females can make themselves appear more attractive.  ‘So just after I finish my game of football and record the song I wrote, I’m going to take you on a surprise trip.’ might be a good line to use.  However, before anyone starts to walk around town carrying an empty guitar case they just bought, if you say you are creative, then you have to eventually demonstrate at some time that you actually are.  So if you have the guitar case, then one day you are going to have to open it, get the guitar out and start playing.

References

Beaussart, M.L., Kaufman, S.B., & Kaufman, J.C. (2012) Creative activity, personality, mental illness, and short--term mating success. Journal of Creative Behavior, 46, 151–167.

Clegg, H., Nettle, D., & Miell, D. (2011) Status and mating success amongst visual artists. Frontiers in Psychology, 21, 310.

Gueguen, N., Meineri, S., & Fischer-Lokou, J. (2014) Men's music ability and attractiveness to women in a real-life courtship context. Psychology of Music, 42, 545–549.

Haselton, M., & Miller, G. (2006) Women’s fertility across the cycle increases the short-term attractiveness of creative intelligence. Human Nature, 17, 50–73.

Kaufman, S. B., Kozbelt, A., Silvia, P., Kaufman, J. C., Ramesh, S., & Feist, G. J. (2014) Who finds Bill Gates sexy? Creative mate preferences as a function of cognitive ability, personality, and creative achievement. The Journal of Creative Behaviour, 0, 1-19.

Li, N.P., Bailey, J.M., Kenrick, D.T., & Linsenmeier, J.A.W. (2002). The necessities and luxuries of mate preferences: testing the tradeoffs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 82, 947–955.

Miller, G. (2009). Spent: Sex, evolution, and consumer behavior. New York: Viking.

Nettle, D. & Clegg, H. (2006). Schizotypy, creativity and mating success in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Containing papers of a Biological character, 273, 611–615.

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