There’s A Scientific Reason You Always Liked Nice Guys Like Seth Cohen

It’s a well-known phrase in the dating world. “Nice guys finish last.” Basically, it means that while heterosexual women may want nice characteristics in a partner, they really want the challenge of dating a “bad boy”. This idea is so widespread, there’s a pick-up method that involves men insulting women in order to take them home. This is called “negging”, and it sounds downright insane to me. But hey, if it works…

Earlier this year, a study was published that suggests some men smoke and drink because it makes them more attractive to short term partners. But does this mean that the ‘badboy’ is more desirable, at least in the short term?

One way to find out is to present a number of women with hypothetical men with different personalities and ask them to select a date. In one study, the participants were asked to help a fictional woman choose a date from three men. One man was nice – in touch with his feelings, caring and kind. Another was the self-described “real man”, who was insensitive and unkind. The third was neutral.

Contrary to the stereotype, the ‘nice guy’ option was chosen most, for both the fictional “Susan” character, and for the participants themselves.

So do nice guys still finish last? Realistically, no.

Another study had participants read dating ads, and rate the people behind the words. Those who described themselves as altruistic were rated as more attractive than others who didn’t mention such qualities. ‘Altruistic’ was distilled to mean things like “volunteering at a food bank”. Interestingly, the ‘nice guy’ was chosen for both short and long term partners.

Other studies have shown that women prefer sensitive, confident, easy-going men almost universally over aggressive or demanding partners. So do nice guys still finish last? Realistically, no.

Some studies have shown that having a nice personality can even alter physical attractiveness. Warmth, kindness and decency are valued by both men and women – having them makes us more desirable across the board.

However, sometimes ‘bad’ is attractive. Narcissists are often perceived as very attractive in initial encounters. This may be down to the fact that they put a lot of effort into their appearance. Female narcissists will rely on makeup and showing more cleavage while males tend to spend more time in the gym.

In the very short term, narcissists can even seem well-adjusted, entertaining and generally nicer. But over the long term those initial impressions fade and reverse.

So, in the end, nice guys don’t finish last. Quite the contrary; they’re going to be the ones with stable, happy relationships with beautiful partners. “Curls for girls,” still sounding good?