Boundless optimism of ugly men makes up for less appealing looks
Some men can get by on a wink and a smile – but those with less chiselled features make up for it with misguided optimism about their own appearance, a study claims.
Despite being at a disadvantage in the looks department, some men are able to snare a partner far more attractive than them through relentless persistence and overblown belief in their own sex appeal.
Now scientists believe this could be down to an evolutionary trait which tricks men into overestimating the value of their looks to prevent them from missing a mating opportunity.
This overconfidence causes them to try their luck with a greater number of women because they are less likely to see them as unattainable.
The study, published in the Psychological Science journal, could help explain the mystery of why so many men think women are interested in them when in fact they are not, researchers said.
Making moves on a greater number of women, some of whom are better-looking than them, raises the men’s risk of an embarrassing knock-back but also reduces the chance of missing out on a potential partner.
Only the most attractive men are not inclined to have an inflated view of their desirability – most likely because they are so good looking they do not need to, according to an experiment by US-based Williams College psychologists.
Dr Carin Perilloux, who led the study, said: “There are two ways you can make an error as a man.
“Either you think, ‘Oh, wow, that woman’s really interested in me’ and it turns out she’s not. There’s some cost to that, such as embarrassment or a blow to your reputation.
“The other error: she’s interested, and he totally misses out. He misses out on a mating opportunity. That’s a huge cost in terms of reproductive success.”
Researchers put 96 male and 103 female undergraduate students through an exercise where participants spent three minutes talking to each of five members of the opposite sex.
Before the exercise started they were asked to rate their own attractiveness, and after each chat with a potential partner, they ranked that person’s appearance and how sexually interested they believed the person was in them.
The experiment showed that men who mistakenly believed they were attractive were more likely to overestimate how interested women were in them.
Men who were actually rated as attractive by members of the opposite sex did not make the same errors in judgment.
The researchers wrote: “Essentially, men who rated themselves high on attractiveness were more likely to overperceive women’s interest. The more attractive they actually were to women, however, the more likely they were to underperceive.”
The study also suggested that women underestimate how interested men are in them, possibly to help deflect unwanted sexual interest, avoid accusations of promiscuity and raise a “choosiness barrier” to single out which men are truly interested in them.