In findings that should cheer up men who aren't rich and anybody who loves a sappy romance story, it turns out the Beatles were right: Guys, money can't buy you love.
When college women chose among hypothetical men to date or marry, the attractiveness of big bucks ranked behind things like honesty, good looks and having time for family life.That emphasizes how misleading a popular misconception is of a longstanding evolutionary theory about what attracts men and women to each other, said researcher Michael Cunningham of the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
The theory says men look for physical attractiveness more than women do, while women seek financial resources in a mate. In the popular mind, Cunningham said, that's been boiled down to, "Men check out women for their figure, and women check out men for their wallet."
The new finding emphasizes that while women may find financial resources more important than men do, that's not the top draw, Cunningham said.
In one exeriment, 118 college women chose between hypothetical men to date or marry. The men were assigned various combinations of three traits: he would either get $20,000 a year from a job or $200,000 a year from his parents' winnings in a sweepstakes, he was honest or not, and he was low, medium or high on dominance and competitiveness in tennis.
The top choice was the guy with more money, honesty and medium dominance. But money didn't do any good by itself. It only helped if the guy was honest too.
In a second study, with 52 men and 54 women, participants chose between three possible people for dates or mates. Photographs showed that the person was either physically attractive or not, and biographies showed the person was either a millionaire or "barely scraping by" and had either a good personality or a bad one.
When women were asked to choose a mate with one good trait and two bad ones, half picked the guy with the good personality but low financial status and low physical attractiveness. Twenty-nine percent chose physical attractiveness as the sole selling point, and only 21 percent took wealth.
Men's rankings were the same as women's for a mate, but physical attractiveness beat personality in choosing a date.