Why women love a man who smiles

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James Dean’s brooding demeanour may have left women weak at the knees, but men who are looking for lasting love should ditch the scowl – and smile more instead.

Researchers discovered that women who wanted a long-term relationship found men who smiled more attractive. The women also rated the men more trustworthy when they smiled than when they had a neutral expression.

However, women looking for a short-term relationship did not find smiling men more appealing, the psychologists from the University of Oslo, and Senshu University in Japan said.

Men who seem more trustworthy are a more attractive option for a long-term partnership because it may involve parenting, the researchers said, but the character trait is less important for a short-term fling.

‘Smiling enhanced the male attractiveness for long-term relationships but not for short-term relationships’, the researchers wrote in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

These results are in agreement with the idea that social and cooperative characteristics would be primarily important for long-term partners but not very much for short-term partners because long-term cooperation is necessary for parenting in the former but not in the latter.

Women put more emphasis on social factors such as trustworthiness for the long-term relationship, where paternal investment is expected, in order to minimise the risk of losing commitment from their partner during pregnancy and parenting.

The smiling advantage for long-term partners supports our hypothesis based on the idea of evolutionary strategies in mate choice for parenting. For the first part of the study, 218 women were shown a series of photos of men smiling, and also with a neutral expression.

They were asked to rate the attractiveness of the men for a prospective short-term relationship (i.e. just to date), or for a prospective long-term relationship (i.e. as a possible marriage partner). In the second part of the study, another group of 71 women were again shown a series of photos of men who were smiling or who had a neutral expression, and were asked to rate them on perceived personality traits.

While the neutral faces were perceived as more masculine, the smiling faces were perceived as more trustworthy. Previous research from the same journal, published earlier this month, found that men really can laugh women into bed.

The University of Kansas study found that the more times a man tries to be funny and a woman laughs, the more likely she is to be interested in dating. The reverse was not true for women who attempted humour, however.

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