For all you geeks out there thinking your “artistic talent” might make up for your lack of good looks, money, or dull sense of humor, we have some bad news.
It turns out that creativity is actually among the least desirable traits in a partner for both males and females, at least according to a new study from researchers at the University of Swansea in the UK. The study, the largest test of its kind ever conducted, concluded that, on average, people are far more interested in kindness, beauty, and financial security in their potential mates.
The researchers behind the report polled 2,700 college students from five countries in Europe and Asia, comparing the results of participants hailing from “Eastern” countries (Singapore and Malaysia) with those from “Western” nations (Australia, Norway, and the UK). The students were asked to gauge which of eight attributes they prioritized in a potential partner: kindness, humor, chastity, religiosity, physical attractiveness, financial prospects, a desire for children, and creativity.
Each subject was also given a set amount of “mate dollars”—currency to spend on eight traits of their hypothetical other half. Each dollar amounted to 1 percent of a trait, meaning that if you wanted your mate to be 30 percent more religious, you’d have to spend 30 mate dollars.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy (1894).
But they had to choose carefully—each dollar spent was one that couldn’t be put toward another trait. For instance, you could drop $80 locking down a date that’s both kind and funny, but good luck affording your kid’s college. On the other hand, you could go for someone that has as much money as, say, Warren Buffett. But that also might mean that they could look like… well, Warren Buffett. (And perhaps have the personality of Jimmy Buffett.)
For “Eastern” and “Western” participants alike, creativity was among the three least desirable traits. (The other two were chastity and religiosity.) Across the board, kindness was by far the most commonly picked option of the bunch. Men more highly favored physical attractiveness, while woman prized financial security. Humor was a much more popular choice for Westerners, as was the desire for children, while religiosity saw a higher number in the East.
“It always surprises me with this task that creativity takes a back seat to most other traits, and this pattern was repeated in our large cross-cultural comparison,” the lead researcher, Andrew G. Thomas, said in an interview with TIME. “Highly successful creative individuals, such as musicians and artists, are often highly desirable mates, but maybe what’s actually being valued here is not creativity as such but the social status that accompanies it. It makes me wonder what groupies really like about the bands they follow.”
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