Science is now confirming what men who lack good looks have always suspected: that they stand a better chance of finding a mate of the opposite sex if they are funny, smart or poetic.
In the ruthless world of the mating game, plain-looking men instinctively know that being funny helps to compensate for what they lack in the looks department.
That gut feeling has now gained scientific validation from an unusual study published this week.
According to scientists, an average-looking man becomes more alluring when a woman senses that he has an imaginative spark.
But this good news only applies for men, not plain Janes.
Actually, the study has found, a plain woman fares much worse if the man discovers she has mental zing.
“Creative women with less attractive faces seem to be perhaps penalised in some way,” Christopher Watkins, a psychologist at Abertay University in Scotland, who carried out the research, said.
Watkins first recruited a batch of volunteers who looked at pictures of men and women, rating each on the basis of their physical looks alone.
Armed with this benchmark of beauty, he then submitted the same pictures to another group of volunteers — but this time he provided clues about the subjects’ creativity.
The results showed that men with less attractive faces get a big boost in the popularity contest if they show a creative touch.
“Creative guys with less attractive faces were almost identical in attractiveness to really good looking guys who were not as creative,” he told AFP in a telephone interview.
The top-ranked men were those considered to be both physically attractive and creative.
For women, though, looks remain paramount.
But why would women rate creativity among men so highly?
Watkins pointed to evolutionary biology — the hidden criteria that drives us to seek the best mate for ensuring healthy offspring and their survival.
“Women on average are a more selective sex when it comes to choosing romantic partners,” he said.
Imagination and inspiration may be “a proxy for intelligence”, he suggested.
“Creativity is thought to be a signal that an individual can invest time and effort into a particular task or can see things in novel ways that may be useful for survival.”
That means nerds and poets are at a big disadvantage in online dating, where decisions to swipe left or right — to shun or show interest — are often based on just a glance.
“Certain platforms that we have now for dating might not be favourable for assessing people on more complex attributes,” Watkins said.
The allure of creativity may not be limited to potential romantic partners, but extend to potential friends too, the study found.