Do you gravitate towards people that will casually drop the word ‘superfluous’ into a sentence? Do you find those with endless streams of seemingly irrelevant knowledge intriguing? Well, there’s a reason why! And a scientific reason at that.
Researchers asked around 600 adults to rate the desirability of a series of hypothetical people. The first half of the study focused specifically on heterosexual people, while the latter half of the study was more inclusive of other sexualities.
The task was to indicate how desirable each person was both for a short-term relationship and for a long-term relationship, based entirely on descriptions they were given about the intelligence of the person—i.e. ‘less smart than you’, ‘as smart as you’, or ‘smarter than you’, and how physically attractive the person is—i.e. ‘insufficiently attractive’, ‘sufficiently attractive’ and ‘abundantly attractive.’
The first half of the study, which focused solely on heterosexual people yielded some interesting findings. Ultimately, both men and women desire equally or more intelligent partners when it came to both short-term and long-term relationships. It became clear that straight men do in fact prioritise intelligence when it came to getting serious in a long-term relationship, however, valued it less for short-term relationships where looks were the most important factor.
A unanimous finding across all participants and for all types of relationships, scientists found that there was always a strong emphasis placed on a partner being of equal or greater intelligence. For short-term relationships, however, the scientists did observe that intelligence mattered to desirability only if the person was determined to be sufficiently attractive—indicating once again that aesthetics are the most important factor at play in short-termers.
Ultimately, it’s clear that for a short-term relationship, if a person isn’t deemed attractive enough then they won’t even be considered—but if they are deemed attractive enough then intelligence can serve to make them even more appealing.
The authors of the study claim that there are real biological reasons behind this—explaining that “the less intelligent person is one to be avoided, as this person will come with considerable social and even biological costs, making less relative intelligence a deal-breaker.”
How to make the science work in your own love life