Dating With Science: Guys Prefer Compatibility To Hotness
Science Fact: Men think they value attractiveness over other positive traits, but personality is more important to them than they realize.
Explanation: It often seems like physical attractiveness is the most important thing in the world. Already-beautiful women can only appear on magazine covers once they've been photoshopped so hard that they wind up looking like unrecognizable demi-humans. People react with astonishment when someone who isn't gorgeous has a beautiful singing voice, as though it's a shock that any of the Normals can do anything except consume food and occupy physical space. It's tempting to blame modern society for all this shallowness, but there have been pretty rigorous standards of beauty all throughout history; 200 years ago, it was in vogue to slather poison on your face, and if you accidentally got a tan, you might as well just wander out onto the moors to die.
So anyone who isn't a supermodel should pretty much just mope around until the Rapture, right? Perhaps not! Guys might fixate on the hot girls when they first walk into a room, but what they're attracted to after that depends on a girl's personal characteristics (the kind that have nothing to do with physical attractiveness).
The Science: In one study, researchers had men examine photos of women of various weights, and to indicate the whole range of weights they found physically attractive. The kicker is that these photos were accompanied by different personality descriptions, and when these descriptions were all positive, the guys rated a greater range of women as attractive. They found them physically hotter if they thought they were fun, or funny, or they knew who Boba Fett was, or whatever.
In another study, researchers asked guys to pick which characteristics they wanted most in a date—wealth, personality, or attractiveness—which of course led to the guys staring blankly at the researchers as though they were insane. (This is to say that practically every guy answered "attractiveness, duh"). But what they said didn't actually matter once they were placed in a speed-dating scenario with some women from the same study. What did matter was a totally unquantifiable thing: compatibility. In the words of the authors themselves, most people—both dudes and ladies—"lack accurate speculative access" to the things they'll like when actually meeting someone. This is Science Talk for "everybody is very stupid, at least when it comes to romance." The only certainty is that, whatever most people want in a partner, it's not just hotness; it's Something Else. It's the thing where people "click."
So What Should I Do About It?
These lessons apply to everyone, but since society typically treats girls like they must either be beautiful or die in a fire, the lesson for girls is not to die in any fires, and to instead realize that guys actually do care about all the other stuff that makes up your personality (even if they don't immediately realize it). And hey, there are literally dudes who will pay actual money dollars to play video games with a girl, so this should be all the evidence you need to realize how starved for common ground many guys actually are.
If you're a guy, the lesson is that you'll be happier with a girl who shares your passion for Lord of the Rings than with a supermodel who thinks Sauron is a species of dinosaur. Some scientists will claim—and this is up for debate—that lusting after hotties is something we're biologically programmed to do, but if you were a brainless slave to biology, you'd just drop out of school and eat Pop Tart after Pop Tart until you finally fell through the floor of the house. Luckily, evolutionary instincts don't command your behavior in your everyday life, so even if you are hard-wired to notice hot girls, that's no excuse not to pursue a relationship with actual substance to it. Broaden your horizons and go after girls you actually connect with on a real level; you'll be much happier that way.