Think you know what really makes people attractive to the opposite sex? If you had to guess, what traits would you suggest?

Someone who is good-looking, with a nice physique and who is easy to get on with? Surprisingly, researchers found none of these common physical traits top of the list of what makes someone truly attractive.

Instead, participants in two ground-breaking studies were found to value personality over physical.

The top five attractive personality traits psychologists revealed were:

  1. Kindness and understanding,
  2. Intelligence,
  3. Sense of humor,
  4. Fun loving,
  5. Having an exciting personality.

There was one other characteristic psychologists found that rated highly on attractiveness and that was playfulness.

People who are playful are light-hearted, love to use gentle ribbing and teasing in a non-malicious way, and are typically very adept at using wordplay. They are quite often at the center of attention but not in a demanding way, people just tend to naturally gravitate to them.

Playful people tend to like someone who is also playful in nature, or someone who is laid back, funny and creative. Those who exhibit high levels of playfulness are typically more spontaneous, outgoing, light-hearted and fun-loving.

These qualities also point to a better coping strategy when it comes to dealing with stress, and a more active lifestyle. Playful people are also much more likely to succeed academically.

Dr. René Proyer, the study’s first author, said:

“Therefore, this personality trait also seems important for the choice of partner, at least more so than the partner having a degree, good genes or being religious.”

However, playfulness indicates different things to the different sexes. In women, a playful man indicates one that is not aggressive. For men, playful women are an indication of vitality.

One of the studies that revealed these results came from a survey carried out on 327 young adults. These participants were asked to name which traits they found desirable in a partner.

The different sexes put the above traits in more-or-less the same order, except men rated an exciting personality higher whilst women preferred a sense of humor.

Dr. Proyer said:

“Although we should be cautious while interpreting the data, this could be an indication that playful people are actually perceived as more attractive partners or that playfulness increasingly develops in the relationship.”

This study also showed that having a playful nature could help with a person’s wellbeing as it benefits a relationship by adding humor, fun, and interest.

Dr. Proyer stated:

“…individuals perceive playfulness as being beneficial to well-functioning romantic relationships by increasing the well-being of the partners, by maintaining the relationships’ excitement, and by conveying the each individual’s affection for his or her partner, and—more generally speaking—by more deeply cultivating the relationship.”

These results were backed up by a further study that examined the same premise: what makes someone attractive to the opposite sex.

This study involved 250 students who were also asked to rate attractive personality traits. In the study, both sexes stated that ‘fun-loving’ and ‘playful’ were amongst the most important characteristics when looking for a partner.

The study backed up previous research that a sense of playfulness indicated a lack of aggression in males.

Lead author Prof Garry Chick, head of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Penn State, said:

“Humans and other animals exhibit a variety of signals as to their value as mates. Just as birds display bright plumage or coloration, men may attract women by showing off expensive cars or clothing. In the same vein, playfulness in a male may signal to females that he is nonaggressive and less likely to harm them or their offspring.”

It also suggested that women who are playful are seen as youthful and fertile.

Prof Chick also said:

“It seems to us that signalling one’s virtues as a potential long-term mate through playfulness is not far-fetched. Our results suggest that adult playfulness may result from sexual selection and signal positive qualities to potential long-term mates.”

So should you be worried if you are not naturally playful? Researchers say no as they are defining playfulness as not so much a fixed trait but a mood that can be encouraged and developed.

This ploy could be self-defeating as anything characterized as a premise that could be developed and grown sounds a little like work, and that is the opposite of play.

The importance of these studies is to show that a more playful attitude doesn’t only make you more attractive but also helps you improve your wellbeing.


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