One of the things that causes great confusion among men is the claim that women value intelligence more highly than any other trait when selecting mates. Very smart guys who struggle to attract women are quick to call BS on this claim. But as is often the case, the devil is in the details.
A recent BBC study of 120,000 people from 53 countries shows that intelligence does indeed top the list of most desirable traits:
5. Physical attractiveness
6. Moral values
7. Communication skills
These results were consistent across cultures. But if we drill down deeper, we can learn more about what this means for individuals in the dating market.
First, these traits apply to long-term mating. They reflect the priority women place on a man’s ability to be a good partner as well as a committed father. For short-term mating, only physical attractiveness matters because it’s a play for quick exposure to “good genes.” The short- and long-term mating markets are distinct and reflect different mating strategies.
Second, and more importantly, five of the listed traits are directly linked to intelligence:
Humor (verbal intelligence)
Kindness (emotional intelligence)
Moral values (emotional intelligence)
Communication skills (verbal intelligence)
Miller and Max highlight the various kinds of intelligence women value:
Social intelligence: Includes the ability manipulate, deceive and influence others, but also anticipate others’ needs, cooperate and resolve conflicts.
Emotional Intelligence: The ability to understand and use your emotions to guide effective thinking and behaviors and to read other people’s emotions accurately in their faces, bodies and speech. This is strongly correlated with IQ.
Verbal intelligence: Reflected in good conversation, stories, jokes, and pillow talk after sex. Women have been favoring men with good verbal courtship skills since ancestral times.
Practical intelligence: Street smarts to cope effectively with daily challenges.
Mating intelligence: understand needs and desires of opposite sex. Displays all forms of intelligence in romantically attractive ways.
This was a real eye opener for me. I have always been very strongly attracted to my husband’s intellect, but when I think about how that is displayed, it does depend on his verbal intelligence, along with his emotional intelligence. Candle power alone is not enough to trigger attraction – it’s the delivery or display that seals the deal. That’s what makes him effective.
Max and Miller provide concrete suggestions for developing these various forms of intelligence – I do recommend the book if you’re interested in becoming better at communication with women.
Clearly, women are asking for a lot. We want men with well-rounded, multiple intelligences, good character and good looks. The more we ourselves have to offer, the more we can demand from a potential mate. Since most people do pair off and reproduce, we can say the system works pretty well.
The BBC study referred to above included both men and women – what do you think this says about how men regard intelligence in women? A recent study found that men like smart women – as long as they’re still on top.
I’ll be contributing to a Yahoo Health article on this topic next week, so I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this.
Does this broader explanation of intelligence surprise you?
What kinds of intelligence do you prioritize in mating?
As a woman, have you experienced rejection for being smart? Or smarter than the man?
Are there red flags you look for, e.g. social or mating intelligence misused by cads?