Do Men Like Nice Women? Do Women Like Bad Boys? Science Addresses these Stereotypes

It's become popular to criticize the stereotypes that men like "nice" women and "nice guys finish last." Why shouldn't women stop being emotional doormats for others, and why shouldn't men stop trying to be uncaring "bad boys" when they're not? Unfortunately, science has spoken, and it favors the stereotypes: Men really do seem to like nice, "responsive" women better, and women do seem to have an aversion to "nice guys." Oh well.

As reported in ScienceDaily, researchers working in a team from three universities — the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya (in Israel), the University of Rochester (New York), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — conducted a set of studies designed to figure out whether "responsiveness" matters in heterosexual attractiveness, to each gender. They found that women who are "responsive" (i.e. nice) are perceived as more feminine and more attractive to men, who are more aroused by them and consequently more interested in pursuing a relationship. Women did not generally rate "responsive" men in the same positive way, however. As Dr. Gurit Birnbaum, one of the researchers, explains:

Women may perceive this person as inappropriately nice and manipulative (i.e., trying to obtain sexual favors) or eager to please, perhaps even as desperate, and therefore less sexually appealing. Alternatively, women may perceive a responsive man as vulnerable and less dominant.

Although these findings are interesting, they fall rather short of proving that "chicks despise nice guys," as some pickup-artist types would have you believe. Still, you can take some cues for your own dating life. If you're a girl, it couldn't hurt to be a little more "responsive" on your next first date: The researchers had "responsive" experimental assistants do things like behave sympathetically when the participant disclosed having a problem in his life, and just generally being nicer. It's not "faking" (you want to be nice, don't you?) it's just a basically cost-free way of boosting your chances that your date will have a favorable impression of you.

If you're a guy, there's no reason to go out of your way to be a jerk. But, realize that if you come across as highly sympathetic to your female date, you may actually diminish her interest in you instead of increasing it. As the researchers showed, responsiveness seems feminine, but she's a straight woman, so she's looking for a man. Instead, try just being a good, active listener, without all the emoting.