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Are intelligent, creative, and emotionally competent people more desirable? Evolution-based theories and studies on the ideal partner suggest that they are. We aimed to assess whether verbal, numerical, and spatial intelligence, creativity, and intra- and interpersonal emotional competence are associated with higher real-life mate appeal. In speed dates, 87 women and 88 men met up to 14 members of the opposite sex (2188 observations). While only one measured ability—women’s creativity—was significantly associated with mate appeal, ability perceptions by speed-dating partners could broadly predict mate appeal. Effects of perceived and measured abilities were substantially reduced after controlling for physical attractiveness. These results suggest that the investigated abilities play a lesser role in initial attraction than proposed in the past.
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Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
Available online 30 May 2021
0092-6566/© 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
What you see is what you want to get: Perceived abilities outperform
objective test performance in predicting mate appeal in speed dating
Gabriela Hofer
, Roman Burkart , Laura Langmann , Aljoscha C. Neubauer
University of Graz, Institute of Psychology, Graz, Austria
Mate appeal
Emotional competence
Perceived abilities
Speed dating
Person perception
Social relations modeling
Are intelligent, creative, and emotionally competent people more desirable? Evolution-based theories and studies
on the ideal partner suggest that they are. We aimed to assess whether verbal, numerical, and spatial intelligence,
creativity, and intra- and interpersonal emotional competence are associated with higher real-life mate appeal. In
speed dates, 87 women and 88 men met up to 14 members of the opposite sex (2188 observations). While only
one measured abilitywomens creativitywas signicantly associated with mate appeal, ability perceptions by
speed-dating partners could broadly predict mate appeal. Effects of perceived and measured abilities were
substantially reduced after controlling for physical attractiveness. These results suggest that the investigated
abilities play a lesser role in initial attraction than proposed in the past.
1. Introduction
What attracts us to other people? Research suggests that it might not
only be how good-looking they are or how great their personality is but
also how smart they are: Across many different cultures, cognitive
abilities are among the most desirable traits in potential partners (Buss
et al., 1990; Walter et al., 2020). And, according to theories from
evolutionary psychology (e.g., Miller, 2000), this makes a lot of sense:
Higher intelligence might not only have come with better chances of
survival but could also have been an indicator of good genes. When
considering the appeal of abilities, both evolutionary theories and
research on partner preferences have often focused on general intelli-
gence but little is known about how these relations generalize to more
specic abilities. And thus far, surprisingly few studies in this eld have
actually measured a persons cognitive abilities when examining how
desirable they are to others. The present investigation aims to close these
gaps by determining what role a diverse set ofobjectively measur-
edabilities play for attraction.
1.1. The appeal of abilities in evolution-based theories
The notion that we are attracted to intelligence and other abilities
has a long background in evolution-based theories. According to Dar-
wins (1871) sexual selection theory, some adaptations have evolved
because they are associated with mating-advantages. Miller (2000)
posited that human intelligence has evolved through such processes
because it advertises good genes to prospective partners as a so-called
tness indicator. High intelligence might also show that a person
could be a good provider (Prokosch et al., 2009). Miller (2000)
considered creativity as another tness indicator, specically as a signal
of high intelligence. He also argued that aspects of emotional compe-
tence like empathy evolved via sexual selection as good-genes, good-
parent or good-partner indicators (Miller, 2007). In his sexual strategies
theory, Buss proposed that contextual factors and sex inuence what
people are attracted to (for a current review see Buss & Schmitt, 2019).
The theory posits that there are several mating strategies, each of them
associated with different demands to potential partners. These strategies
include short-term mating, like one-night stands, and long-term mating,
typically characterized by high commitment. Since men and women
faced different adaptive challenges, they should also differ in their
mating strategies. As an example, both sexes might prioritize good-
partner and good-parent qualities (e.g., intelligence and emotional sta-
bility) in a long-term partner, whereas particularly men might lower
their standards and put more emphasis on physical attractiveness (in the
following attractiveness) in the short-term context (Buss & Schmitt,
1.2. The appeal of abilities in the ideal partner
When asked about their ideal partner, people often name intelligence
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (G. Hofer).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Research in Personality
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Received 20 March 2021; Received in revised form 20 May 2021; Accepted 24 May 2021
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
as one of the most relevant traits (e.g., Buss et al., 1990, 2001; Gignac
et al., 2018; Goodwin & Tinker, 2002). Moreover, people desire at least
averageand often higherlevels of intelligence in their partners, with
higher demands for more serious relationships (Kenrick et al., 1990;
Regan et al., 2000). Only for sexual encounters did men rate below
average intelligence as acceptable and, in that, were more lenient than
women (Kenrick et al., 1990). In a large, recent study across 45 coun-
tries, Walter et al. (2020) found a general preference for highly intelli-
gent partners, with women desiring slightly higher intelligence than
men. This is in line with sex differences in the rated relevance of intel-
ligence: Women judge a potential long-term partners intelligence as
more important than men; men, on the other hand, place more weight
on attractiveness than women (Schwarz & Hassebrauck, 2012). In a
study by Li et al. (2002), men saw high physical attractiveness as a ne-
cessity in potential partners, with other characteristicsincluding
intelligenceonly being considered after it was fullled (see also Lee
et al., 2014). Women prioritized high intelligence in their partners, even
if that meant that they had to lower their demands regarding other
characteristics. But the desire for high intelligence is not without limits:
Recents studies (Gignac & Callis, 2020; Gignac, Darbyshire, & Ooi,
2018) have found intelligence only to be increasingly appealing up to a
certain thresholdaccording to their estimate around the 90th
percentile or an IQ of about 120.
There is also some empirical support that people are attracted to
highly creative and emotionally competent partners. In the early cross-
cultural study by Buss et al. (1990), a partners creativity, emotional
stability, and sociability were viewed as less important than intelligence
but were still widely sought-after. While minimum demands for crea-
tivity are lower than those for intelligence, they also rise with longer
relationship duration (Kenrick et al., 1990) and the reported optimal
level of creativity of partners for sexual and serious relationships is
above average (Regan et al., 2000). Especially womenbut also
mendesire high emotional stability in a partner, particularly for longer
relationships (Kenrick et al., 1990). Recently, Gignac and Callis (2020)
showed that people rated highbut not necessarily very highemo-
tional intelligence most desirable in a prospective partner. Indeed,
concerns about potentially low emotional intelligence were among the
most common reasons participants named for not wanting their partner
to be too intelligent.
Overall, there is considerable evidence that particularly intelligence
but also creativity and emotional competence are desirable in an ideal
hypothetical partner. However, past work has also shown that mate
preferences like these do not necessarily relate to actual desire in real-
life dating contexts (Eastwick & Finkel, 2008). Are more intelligent,
creative, and emotionally competent people truly more desirable real-
life partners?
1.3. The appeal of abilities in an actual potential partner
A small number of studies have investigated how desirable people
nd cognitive abilities in actual potential partners. We review these
results in the context of those on attractiveness, which often out-
performed both cognitive and non-cognitive traits as predictors of mate
appeal (e.g., Asendorpf et al., 2011; Fisman et al., 2006; Jauk et al.,
2016; Prokosch et al., 2009). Fisman et al. (2006) predicted mate
choices in speed dating (i.e., whether participants wanted to meet a
person again) from ratings of intelligence and attractiveness. While
rated intelligence was generally a positive predictor of being chosen, this
was moderated by sex: Women put more weight on rated intelligence
than men. Conversely, men put more weight on rated attractiveness. Sex
differences in the mate appeal of intelligence and attractiveness were
also found in another speed-dating study (Karbowski et al., 2016):
Womens higher rated intelligence was actually associated with being
chosen less often, unless they were also highly attractive at the same
time. Unattractive but intelligent men, on the other hand, still had a
good chance of being chosen for a second date.
Most studies in this area have not used objective performance mea-
sures but relied on subjective ability perceptions instead, which is
potentially problematic (see also Driebe et al., 2021). Ability percep-
tions by strangers (Borkenau et al., 2004; Borkenau & Liebler, 1993;
Carney et al., 2007; Denissen et al., 2011), parents, teachers (Sommer
et al., 2008; Steinmayr & Spinath, 2009), and even people themselves
(Neubauer et al., 2018; Neubauer & Hofer, 2020, 2021a; Zell & Krizan,
2014) have shown only low to moderate correlations with objective
measures. Importantly, low correlations between perceived and
measured intelligence were also reported in a speed-dating study
(Driebe et al., 2021). What is more, when abilities and mate appeal are
rated by the same person, this might introduce transfer effects (see also
Driebe et al., 2021): If we have a positive impression of someone, we
tend to attribute them various positive characteristics that they might
not necessarily possess. This so-called halo error was already proposed
by Thorndike (1920) and is often discussed in the context of highly
attractive people who are assigned other socially desirable attributes
(Langlois et al., 2000). Thus, while research using subjective ability
perceptions clearly answers important questions (e.g., Am I attracted to
someone that I think of as highly intelligent?), it likely cannot tell us
whether a persons intelligence or other abilities are attractive in
Prokosch et al. (2009) conducted one of the few studies on mate
preferences that included psychometrically measured intelligence.
Mens measured intelligence was positively associated with their short-
and long-term mate appealas rated by women who had viewed videos
of thembut only explained about 3% of variance each. Intelligence
perceptions by women showed signicant overlap with measured in-
telligence. While they also explained only about 3% of variance in short-
term mate appeal, this rose to about 13% for long-term mate appeal. In
comparison, attractiveness alone explained 40% of variance in long-
term mate appeal and 59% in short-term mate appeal. These results
support womens attraction towards intelligence but also emphasize
that subjective perceptions of intelligence do not necessarily behave like
objective measures when it comes to mate appeal (see also the recent
preprint by Driebe et al., 2021). So far, extant research only investigated
the appeal of one very particular intelligence facet (verbal intelligence;
Prokosch et al., 2009) or of general intelligence (Driebe et al., 2021). But
Aspara et al. (2018) argued that different types of intelligence could
have different effects on mate appeal: The potentially easier-to-perceive
verbal intelligence might already be relevant in rst interactions with
potential partners, while the likely harder-to-observe numerical and
logical intelligence might only become important at later stages. Accu-
racy research showed that people indeed struggle more when judging
some abilities than others (for peer-ratings see e.g., Neubauer et al.,
2018). However, it is unclear whether these results can be translated to
perceptions at rst romantic encounters and whether differences in ac-
curacy map onto differences in mate appeal.
It appears that to this date there is no published research on how a
persons measured creativity or emotional competence is related to their
mate appeal. In addition to the ndings on hypothetical mate prefer-
ences reviewed above, there are also theoretical reasons to believe that
these abilities are desirable. Creativity was argued to be an indicator of
intelligence and, therefore, likely related to mate appeal (Miller, 2000).
Indeed, Griskevicius et al. (2006) found that particularly men performed
better in creative tasks when primed with short- or long-term mating-
goals, leading the authors to conclude that creative displays could be
similar to a peacocks feathers in attracting mates. In another set of
experiments, Watkins (2017) found that highly creative responses to a
task could compensate for the effects of low physical attractiveness on
overall attractiveness ratings. Finally, in Prokosch et al. (2009), per-
ceptions of mens creativity accounted for 18% of variance in their
short-term mate appeal and 27% of variance in their long-term mate
appeal. As reviewed above, emotional stability, sociability, and other
facets of emotional competence are also valued in hypothetical partners.
Besides, there is considerable evidence that emotional competence is
G. Hofer et al.
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
associated with better long-term relationships (Malouff et al., 2014;
e and Schütz, 2011). Therefore, it would be plausible that
emotionally competent people make for more desirable partners.
Nevertheless, empirical tests of this proposition appear to be still
In summary, the literature on the appeal of different intelligence
facets, creativity, and emotional competence in actual potential partners
is sparse. While there is some support that intelligence might be
appealing in real-life partners, results are mixed, particularly when
compared to the consistent ndings on hypothetical partners. Addi-
tionally, conclusions are often limited to subjective perceptions instead
of objective measures of these abilities, only male targets or situations
that have little resemblance with real-life dating.
1.4. The present study
In the present study, we aimed to extend the existing body of
research in several ways: We investigated whether different objectively
measured abilities predict mate appeal. Instead of relying on one general
or specic intelligence measure, we included verbal, numerical, and
spatial intelligence. We assessed creativity, so far having only been
measured via subjective perceptions, with a divergent thinking task.
Finally, we included measures of intra- and interpersonal emotional
management abilitiesthe abilities to manage ones own emotions and
the emotions of others, respectively. We further assessed subjective
perceptions of the same abilities. Thus, we could investigate what people
are more drawn to: How competent a potential partner truly is or their
own beliefs about that persons abilities. We examined mate appeal in a
naturalistic setting, using the speed-dating paradigm that allows for
genuine interactions with the prospect to see each other again (Finkel
et al., 2007). This paradigm has been successfully applied to many
research questions on interpersonal perception (e.g., Hopwood et al.,
2021; Kerr et al., 2020) and attraction (e.g., Asendorpf et al., 2011;
Berrios et al., 2015; Jauk et al., 2016). Yet, speed-dating studies on the
appeal of actual abilities are still rare (for an exception see Driebe et al.,
2021). Data acquisition in the context of heterosexual speed dating
further enabled us to explore potential sex differences. We also differ-
entiated between short- and long-term mate appeal, allowing us to test
the proposition that the characteristics preferred by men and women
differ depending on the temporal context (see Buss & Schmitt, 2019).
1.4.1. Research questions and expectations
Our rst research question refers to whether a persons (target)
objectively measured abilities can predict their short- and long-term
mate appeal to a perceiver. We expected that all three types of intelli-
gence (in the following intelligence) would predict mens short- and
long-term mate appeal to women. Womens intelligence should predict
their long-term mate appeal to men. We based these predictions on
research that showed that both sexes prefer high intelligence in their
long-term partner but men have lower demands regarding intelligence
in the short-term context (e.g., Kenrick et al., 1990). Moreover, based on
ndings that women also view intelligence as more important in a long-
term partner than men do (e.g., Schwarz & Hassebrauck, 2012), we
expected a moderation by sex with higher effects of mens intelligence
on their long-term mate appeal. Past research indicated that creativity
might be relevant in short- and long-term contexts for both sexes
(Griskevicius et al., 2006). Therefore, we expected mens and womens
creativity to predict their short- and long-term mate appeal. Finally,
since (inter- and intrapersonal) emotional competencies might be
especially important in long-term relationships, we expected them to
predict long-term mate appeal for both men and women.
Our second research question concerns the role that physical
attractiveness plays in mate appeal compared to abilities. Attractiveness
was the most important predictor of mate appeal in past studies (e.g.,
Prokosch et al., 2009). We, therefore, tested the robustness of all ability-
based ndings by controlling for the targets attractiveness.
Additionally, we expected sex to moderate the relationship between
attractiveness and long-term mate appeal: Research showed that, while
both sexes see attractiveness as important in short-term partners, men
value it more than women in the long-term context (e.g., Li et al., 2002).
Thus, we predicted that the association between attractiveness and long-
term mate appeal would be higher for female targets. Some research
suggests that men only consider a potential partners intelligence after a
certain level of attractiveness has been reached (Lee et al., 2014; Li et al.,
2002). Karbowski et al. (2016) proposed that for less attractive women,
high intelligence might even be detrimental to their mate appeal. Based
on this, we assumed that womens attractiveness would moderate the
relationship between their intelligence and their long-term mate appeal,
with a lower association between mate appeal and intelligence at lower
Since most existing studies on the appeal of intelligence and other
abilities relied on subjective ability perceptions, our third research
question focused on the role of these perceptions. We further analyzed
how well subjective and objective ability measures performed in pre-
dicting mate appeal when entered into the same analysis. We had no
specic expectations for this research question.
2. Methods
We report how we determined our sample size, all data exclusions,
and all measures in the study (Simmons et al., 2012). This study was
preregistered. While conducting the study, analyzing the data, and
writing the manuscript, we noticed a small number of methodological
shortcomings of our preregistration. The preregistration, a list of de-
viations from it, and further supplementary information can be found in
our OSF-project (
2.1. Participants
Based on sample size recommendations for social relation models
with asymmetric block designs (Kenny et al., 2006) and practical con-
siderations about the speed-dating events, we aimed to collect data from
180 participants. Due to expected dropouts between the different data
collection sessions (see procedure), registration was open for 210 people
(105 men, 105 women). In the end, 90 women and 90 men attended one
of seven speed-dating events. There, they met between 11 and 14
members of the opposite (self-reported) sex, amounting to a total of
1157 interactions. Each encounter was followed by the completion of a
score card containing questions on the respective speed-dating partner,
leading to 2314 ratings. We excluded data from ve participants prior to
analyses: one person showed low compliance, two reported being ho-
mosexual, and another two had incomplete data on performance mea-
sures. Hence, the nal sample consisted of 175 participants (87 female)
between 18 and 30 years (which were also the age limits; M =22.51, SD
=2.81) who met each other at a total of 1094 dates (2188 ratings).
89.71% were university students with about half of them studying
psychology. 92% reported being heterosexual and the remaining par-
ticipants reported being bisexual or being uncertain about being solely
heterosexual. While 166 were single, four were in an open relationship,
and another ve stated that they were in a monogamous relationship
2.2. Procedure
This study is part of a larger project with a multi-step data collection
process: Participants rst registered via an online survey andfor an
unrelated research questionprovided the contact of a close acquain-
tance to complete questionnaires about them. The data pertinent to the
We kept these participants in our sample to preserve power because most of
them stated that they wanted to meet others again. Their mean ratings on mate-
appeal variables were also comparable to participants who were single.
G. Hofer et al.
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
present research were then collected in performance-testing sessions
and, nally, during the speed-dating events. The study procedure was
approved by the local ethics committee.
2.2.1. Pre-event performance testing
Prior to the speed-dating events, participants took part in one of 14
same-sex performance-testing sessions in groups of between 5 and 25.
After providing their informed consent, participants completed timed
paper-pencil tests of their verbal, numerical, and spatial intelligence
(Liepmann et al., 2007). We presented the remaining measuresrst a
test on creativity (Benedek et al., 2013; Guilford, 1967) and then one on
emotional management abilities (Freudenthaler & Neubauer, 2005)in
computerized form. This was followed by questionnaires that are not
relevant to the research questions discussed in this paper (for a full list of
measures see OSF).
2.2.2. Speed-dating procedure
Each participant attended one of seven speed-dating events that took
place in a baroque chateau on campus (the Meerscheinschl¨
ossl). Women
and men entered the building through separate entrances and waited in
different areas to avoid any contact before their dates. Upon arrival, we
provided participants with a code to be worn visibly on their shirt and
took their picture for external attractiveness ratings (see 2.3.3). They
were then verbally instructed about the procedure of the speed dating
and how to complete the score cards (i.e., one-page questionnaires to ll
in after each date). Men entered the main hall rst, where we had
already dimmed the lights and were playing smooth jazz at a low volume
to provide a relaxed atmosphere. There were 15 speed-dating booths,
separated from each other by partition walls. Each booth contained a
table and two chairs, with another set of tables being located opposite to
the booths. Men sat down at these tables, with their backs towards one of
the booths. Next, women entered the hall and sat down in the booths.
The experimenters rang a bell to signal that all men should turn around,
thus starting the rst date. The speed-dating partners then had 3 min to
get to know each other. Afterwards, they were alerted by another bell
indicating that men should return to their tables so that both parties
could complete the score card in private. When all participants had
nished, men rotated to the next booth. We repeated this process until
all attendees had met every member of the opposite sex (between 11 and
14, depending on the session).
2.3. Measures
2.3.1. Objective performance measures
Intelligence was measured with parts of the well-established Intel-
ligenz-Struktur-Test 2000 R (Liepmann et al., 2007) across three facets:
Verbal intelligence was measured with the subtest similarities, numerical
intelligence with number series, and spatial intelligence with
gure selection. We followed the instructions and time limits proposed by
the test authors. While the subtests for numerical (
=0.87) and spatial
intelligence (
=0.77) showed good internal consistency, reliability
evidence was lower for verbal intelligence (
Creativityor more precisely creative potentialwas measured
with a computer-based version (Jud, 2018) of the Alternative Uses Task
(Benedek et al., 2013; Guilford, 1967). Participants had 2.5 min (per
object) to nd creative uses for a plastic bottle, an umbrella, and a shoe
with the instruction to nd creative ideas that other people would
consider original, clever, unusual, interesting, or humorous. Task per-
formance was scored with respect to ideational uency and originality.
Fluency reected the average number of responses per task. The origi-
nality of the generated ideas was rated on a scale from 0 (not creative) to
3 (very creative) by six independent, non-expert raters (2 men, 4
women), who previously had completed a short rater training (see also
Benedek et al., 2017). Inter-rater reliabilities were high (
=0.88). Originality was dened as the average
rating of the three most original ideas per object to reduce the
potentially confounding inuence of uency (Benedek et al., 2016,
2017; Smeekens & Kane, 2016). Fluency and originality scores were
averaged across the three tasks. Internal consistency was satisfactory for
both originality (
=0.76) and uency (
We measured intra- and interpersonal emotional management abil-
ities with the typical-performance emotional management test (TEMT;
Freudenthaler & Neubauer, 2005). In this test, participants read de-
scriptions of emotionally laden situations (18 requiring intrapersonal
and 24 requiring interpersonal emotional management) and then select
one of four potential reactions with the instruction to choose the
response closest to how they would typically react. Each response cor-
responded to a score between 1 (least adequate) to 4 (most adequate), as
established by expert consensus (Freudenthaler & Neubauer, 2005).
Situational judgement tests like the TEMT are inherently heterogeneous
(Libbrecht & Lievens, 2012; McDaniel et al., 2007) and, thus, often
associated with low internal consistency (MacCann & Roberts, 2008;
McDaniel et al., 2007; Neubauer & Hofer, 2021a). The same was true in
the present study (intra:
=0.60; inter
=0.57). However, a recent
investigation has reported evidence of good test-retest reliability-
which is a more suitable reliability indicator for situational judgment
tests (e.g., McDaniel et al., 2007)for both the intra- (r
=0.83) and
interpersonal (r
=0.76) subscale of the TEMT (Neubauer & Hofer,
2.3.2. Speed-dating score cards
After each speed-dating encounter, participants completed a score
card about their respective partner (see also Asendorpf et al., 2011; Jauk
et al., 2016). It started with two questions regarding prior acquaintance
(Have you already met this person?and Do you know this person
personally?) that we used to exclude previously acquainted dyads.
From the remaining questions, only those pertaining to the partners
perceived abilities and mate appeal are relevant for the current research.
Perceptions of the partners verbal, numerical, and spatial intelligence,
creativity, and intra- as well as interpersonal emotional management
abilities were assessed with one question each (e.g., I think this person
is generally talented in the creative domain.) with response options
ranging from does not apply (1) to applies exactly (5). Two questions on
the partners short-term mate appeal [How much would you like to
have a short-term relationship (e.g., a sexual affair, a one-night-stand,
friends-with-benets, etc.) with this person?] and long-term mate ap-
peal (How much would you like to have a long-term relationship with
this person?) were answered on a scale ranging from not at all (1) to a lot
(5). Finally, participants were asked whether they would like to meet the
partner again (yes/no; mate choice as behavioral outcome). If both
parties replied with a yes, the experimenters sent them each others
contact details after the events. This was the case for 150 dyads out of
1094 dates (13.71%). The full score card including further items on
humor, attractiveness, likability, and certainty about ability estimates
can be found on the OSF.
2.3.3. Physical attractiveness
As ratings of physical attractiveness from the score cards were likely
confounded with other variables like likeability (see also Jauk et al.,
2016), ten external raters evaluated attractiveness. To this end, at the
beginning of speed-dating events, participants were photographed
under standardized lighting conditions with the instruction to show a
neutral facial expression. We presented these pictures in computerized
form to ve men and ve women. Presentation was carried out in two
blocksone per sexwith counterbalanced order (male or female tar-
gets rst). At the beginning of each block, all pictures were presented for
a short period so that raters could get an overview. Within each block,
the order of target pictures was randomized. Raters were instructed to
respond intuitively, set aside any personal preferences, and not base
their judgment on whether the target smiled or not. Attractiveness was
then rated on a scale from not attractive at all (0) to very attractive (5). We
excluded ten ratings for which the raters disclosed that they had
G. Hofer et al.
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
previously met the target. The intraclass correlation for the average rater
with rater as random factor was good [ICC(174, 1566) =0.90, 95% CI
[0.87, 0.92], p <.001]. The mean attractiveness rating across all
external raters showed a strong correlation with speed-dating attrac-
tiveness ratings (r =0.7) but only a small correlation with likeability
ratings from speed dating (r =0.2), whereas speed-dating attractiveness
ratings correlated highly with likability ratings from the score cards (r =
0.53). This conrmed our decision to use externally rated attractiveness
in our analyses (for correlations of speed-dating ratings of attractiveness,
likability, and funniness with all main variables see Table 1).
2.4. Analysis strategy
Data from speed-dating designs have a complex, hierarchical struc-
ture with inherent nonindependence (Ackerman et al., 2015). In het-
erosexual speed dating, each person from one of two groupsmen and
womeninteracts with and provides ratings about everyone from the
other group at a given test session. This type of design is called asym-
metric block design and can be analyzed within the social relations
model (SRM; Kenny et al., 2006). The SRM allows for the partitioning of
variance in speed-dating variables into three parts: Perceiver variance
refers to the perceiversgeneral tendencies to provide low or high rat-
ings. Target variance represents the extent to which the same targets are
seen similarly by different perceivers and, thus, represents a form of
consensus. Relationship variance refers to the variance that is specic to
a given perceiver-target dyad; it can only be separated from error vari-
ance, if the variable of interest is measured with multiple items. One can
also derive corresponding effect scores for each person: While the
perceiver effect indicates how a person views everyone else (e.g., Jane
might view her dates very positively.), a persons target effect represents
how they are seen by all others (e.g., Joe might generally elicit a positive
reaction from all his dates.). Finally, the relationship effect refers to how
someone is uniquely seen by another person (e.g., Jane might be
particularly attracted to Joe, beyond her general tendency to see
everyone as attractive, and beyond Joes general tendency to be seen as
The main effects of interest in the present study were the target ef-
fects for short- and long-term mate appeal, which we aimed to predict
from the targets abilities. We followed the recommendations by
Ackerman et al. (2015) on how to use multilevel modeling (MLM) in IBM
SPSS for SRM with speed-dating data. In separate MLMs, we entered the
targets respective characteristics (objectively measured abilities, speed-
dating ability ratings, and physical attractiveness) as person-level pre-
dictors of target effects for short- and long-term mate appeal. Due to the
characteristics of the asymmetric block designspeed-dating partici-
pants only rate members of the other sex but not of their ownwe
performed parameter estimation separately for men and women. We
tested sex as potential moderator in additional moderation analyses. To
obtain standardized coefcients, we z-transformed all individual level
and speed-dating variables. Before conducting the analyses, we removed
ratings from 55 encounters, for which at least one of the two partners
indicated to know the other.
3. Results
3.1. Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations
Table 1 displays descriptive statistics and intercorrelations for men
and women separately. All speed-dating variables represent the mean
per target over all perceivers. Looking at the standardized mean gender
differences, it becomes apparent that women received higher ratings on
both mate appeal variables, with large effects in both cases. Women also
received a higher percentage of yesses (mate choice) than men. More-
over, both the external raters and the speed-dating partners judged the
female participants as more attractive than the male participants. While
there was little evidence for sex differences in objective performance
measuresapart from mens higher numerical intelligence and intra-
personal emotional competencespeed-dating perceptions displayed
sex differences in all domains: Women were seen as more verbally
intelligent, creative, and emotionally competent (on both subscales),
while men were perceived as more numerically and spatially intelligent.
The majority of intercorrelations between objective ability measures
were moderate at the most. In contrast, some of the speed-dating esti-
mates on different domains correlated highly. Most notably, ratings of
numerical and spatial intelligence correlated at around 0.8. In-
tercorrelations between rated short- and long-term mate appeal but also
mate choice were similarly high (see also Driebe et al., 2021). Thus,
being generally seen as desirable for one type of relationship was highly
associated with desirability for the other type of relationship as well as
with receiving a high percentage of requests for another date.
3.2. Social relations modeling
Before conducting our primary analyses, we assessed whether the
SRM variances were signicantly different from zero for both mate ap-
peal variables. There was signicant perceiver and target variance in
both short- and long-term mate-appeal ratings by both sexes (see
Table 2). Between 11.93% and 21.79% of variance in mate-appeal rat-
ings could be attributed to characteristics of the target, while between
24.05% and 32.37% were accounted for by perceiver components. Note
that no signicance tests were reported for relationship and error vari-
ance, since those tests are not informative when the two components
cannot be separated (Ackerman et al., 2015).
In line with past speed-dating studies (e.g., Jauk et al., 2016), we also
computed two types of reciprocity correlations: generalized and dyadic
reciprocity. Generalized reciprocity represents the association between
the perceiver and target effects of a person. Generalized reciprocity
correlations were all slightly negativemeaning that someone who had
a tendency towards seeing others as desirable was not perceived as
desirable themselvesbut did not reach statistical signicance for short-
term (female perceivers: r = − 0.176, p =.175; male perceivers: r =
0.056, p =.665) or long-term (female perceivers: r = − 0.178, p =.176;
male perceivers: r = − 0.089, p =.527) relationships. Dyadic reciprocity
refers to the association between a specic dyads relationship effects. It
was only signicant for long-term mate appeal (r =0.106, p =.001;
short-term mate appeal: r =0.027, p =.43): Someone, who reported
being particularly interested in having a long-term relationship with a
specic person, also received a similarly positive rating by them.
3.3. Research question 1: Do objectively measured abilities predict short-
and long-term mate appeal?
We expected that all objectively measured abilities would predict
mate appeal, with slightly different expectations for men and women
regarding their short- and long-term mate appeal. To test this research
question, we entered the respective objective performance variables as
person-level predictors into separate MLM analyses for each ability
category (intelligence, creativity, emotional competence) and relation-
ship type (short- and long-term). Table 3 shows that we could not
conrm most of our expectations. No intelligence facet predicted a
targets appeal for any type of relationship, with only the numerical
intelligence of female targets showing what some might call a trend
towards higher long-term mate appeal (p =.073; all other p .116).
Non-signicant effects also emerged for both types of emotional
competence (all p .141). Only womens creativitywhen operation-
alized as ideational uencysignicantly predicted how appealing they
were to men for both short- (p =.008) and long-term relationships (p =
.044): More creative women were more desirable partners. Originality
showed similarbut slightly smaller and non-signicant (p =.063 -
.071)effects. No objectively measured ability predicted mens mate
appeal (all p .148).
The only association between ability level and mate appeal that was
G. Hofer et al.
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
Table 1
Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations of study variables per sex with Cohens ds for sex differences.
Variable Min-Max M (SD) d [95% CI] 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
1 Attractiveness (external) 0.004.40 2.01 (1.01) 0.40 0.04 0.16 0.13 0.13 0.09 0.10 0.12 0.23 0.18 0.13 0.27 0.27 0.28 0.20 0.59 0.08 0.61 0.35 0.46
0.114.60 2.41 (1.03) [0.10; 0.70]
2 Verbal intelligence 5.0018.00 11.81 (2.83) 0.02 0.10 0.29 0.16 0.04 0.19 0.20 0.20 0.09 0.01 0.08 0.03 0.13 0.15 0.06 0.01 0.06 0.04 0.09 0.06
4.0018.00 11.87 (2.61) [0.27; 0.32]
3 Numerical intelligence 3.0020.00 15.49 (4.35) 0.39 0.03 0.17 0.24 0.17 0.14 0.10 0.26 0.07 0.11 0.00 0.12 0.09 0.05 0.14 0.17 0.13 0.07 0.03 0.09
2.0020.00 13.76 (4.47) [0.70; 0.09]
4 Spatial intelligence 3.0019.00 11.94 (3.97) 0.26 0.05 0.23 0.33 0.08 0.10 0.05 0.01 0.14 0.35 0.31 0.15 0.17 0.14 0.08 0.02 0.09 0.08 0.08 0.01
1.0020.00 10.91 (4.08) [0.56; 0.04]
5 Ideational uency 2.7520.33 7.44 (2.86) 0.23 0.26 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.22 0.06 0.07 0.15 0.01 0.07 0.02 0.09 0.15 0.01 0.14 0.02 0.07 0.04 0.04
2.7114.00 6.82 (2.40) [0.53; 0.06]
6 Originality 0.982.26 1.59 (0.28) 0.03 0.21 0.10 0.08 0.22 0.27 0.01 0.08 0.25 0.05 0.10 0.18 0.06 0.00 0.09 0.01 0.09 0.12 0.01 0.02
0.882.13 1.59 (0.24) [0.33; 0.27]
7 Intrapersonal EMA 2.613.78 3.34 (0.28) 0.78 0.20 0.03 0.01 0.04 0.02 0.15 0.28 0.13 0.11 0.15 0.06 0.11 0.14 0.10 0.08 0.18 0.04 0.10 0.02
2.223.67 3.12 (0.29) [1.10; 0.46]
8 Interpersonal EMA 2.383.75 3.20 (0.28) 0.15 0.02 0.11 0.18 0.11 0.03 0.16 0.36 0.18 0.09 0.11 0.10 0.16 0.12 0.17 0.07 0.25 0.13 0.20 0.16
2.383.71 3.24 (0.23) [0.15; 0.44]
9 SD verbal intelligence 2.274.50 3.68 (0.47) 0.34 0.22 0.05 0.06 0.06 0.01 0.26 0.30 0.19 0.16 0.14 0.48 0.72 0.70 0.57 0.52 0.55 0.40 0.46 0.43
2.834.83 3.83 (0.38) [0.04; 0.64]
10 SD numerical intelligence 2.504.73 3.71 (0.53) 1.08 0.01 0.03 0.15 0.05 0.02 0.02 0.04 0.05 0.16 0.83 0.44 0.42 0.18 0.06 0.05 0.18 0.07 0.05 0.01
2.544.42 3.21 (0.38) [1.42; 0.74]
11 SD spatial intelligence 2.624.67 3.55 (0.40) 1.20 0.03 0.07 0.10 0.13 0.05 0.02 0.08 0.01 0.03 0.75 0.29 0.37 0.15 0.03 0.01 0.13 0.04 0.06 0.02
2.464.17 3.12 (0.31) [1.55; 0.85]
12 SD creativity 1.824.86 3.31 (0.57) 0.61 0.17 0.06 0.06 0.02 0.11 0.11 0.11 0.03 0.30 0.32 0.20 0.53 0.39 0.26 0.34 0.14 0.36 0.28 0.30
2.834.46 3.61 (0.38) [0.30; 0.92]
13 SD intrapersonal EMA 2.274.15 3.39 (0.40) 0.58 0.36 0.05 0.13 0.00 0.06 0.28 0.04 0.03 0.39 0.08 0.10 0.39 0.83 0.61 0.59 0.50 0.50 0.46 0.49
2.774.33 3.60 (0.30) [0.27; 0.89]
14 SD interpersonal EMA 2.184.73 3.71 (0.52) 0.33 0.21 0.02 0.16 0.09 0.02 0.24 0.03 0.15 0.50 0.15 0.09 0.38 0.75 0.77 0.68 0.71 0.58 0.57 0.59
2.544.73 3.86 (0.42) [0.03; 0.63]
15 SD funniness 2.184.50 3.54 (0.53) 0.30 0.18 0.14 0.15 0.08 0.05 0.22 0.05 0.01 0.53 0.13 0.23 0.30 0.48 0.62 0.60 0.83 0.57 0.61 0.61
2.504.73 3.68 (0.45) [0.00; 0.60]
16 SD attractiveness 1.454.33 2.93 (0.63) 0.85 0.77 0.11 0.04 0.01 0.36 0.28 0.20 0.01 0.39 0.14 0.17 0.26 0.49 0.41 0.40 0.51 0.87 0.76 0.76
1.854.77 3.48 (0.68) [0.52; 1.17]
17 SD likability 2.544.82 3.94 (0.42) 0.21 0.29 0.14 0.08 0.04 0.00 0.24 0.19 0.08 0.56 0.21 0.29 0.34 0.58 0.65 0.76 0.56 0.48 0.61 0.55
2.585.00 4.02 (0.39) [0.09; 0.51]
18 SD short-term mate appeal 1.003.67 1.91 (0.57) 1.60 0.65 0.07 0.09 0.05 0.25 0.23 0.11 0.04 0.34 0.16 0.18 0.17 0.53 0.44 0.39 0.91 0.56 0.77 0.76
1.464.67 2.95 (0.73) [1.22; 1.97]
19 SD long-term mate appeal 1.003.08 1.94 (0.46) 1.16 0.61 0.14 0.07 0.05 0.25 0.28 0.22 0.08 0.48 0.23 0.28 0.23 0.55 0.51 0.55 0.87 0.74 0.83 0.82
1.154.42 2.60 (0.66) [0.81; 1.50]
20 SD mate choice (%) 0.000.83 0.27 (0.20) 1.21 0.59 0.12 0.03 0.03 0.18 0.27 0.23 0.01 0.43 0.24 0.32 0.22 0.48 0.46 0.51 0.86 0.72 0.85 0.92
0.001.00 0.54 (0.24) [0.86; 1.55]
Note. Values for men (n =88) are at the top/above the diagonal and values for women (n =87) are at the bottom/below the diagonal. A positive Cohens d indicates higher values for women than for men. Values for all
speed-dating variables (SD) are averaged across perceivers per target. All r 0.21 would be statistically signicant at p <.05 (two-tailed). All r 0.34 would be statistically signicant at p <.001 (two-tailed). EMA =
Emotional Management Abilities.
G. Hofer et al.
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
signicantly moderated by sex was the one between originality and
short-term mate appeal (β =.08, 95% CI [0.01; 0.15], p =.031). The
underlying effects were non-signicant for both sexesthe one for fe-
male targets is a trendbut different in their height and direction with β
=.11 for female and β = − 0.05 for male targets (see Table 3). A similar
trend towards moderation materialized only for uency (p =.085; all
other p .109 - .801).
3.4. Research question 2: What role does physical attractiveness play in
predicting mate appeal and in its associations with abilities?
For RQ 2, we rst analyzed how well (externally rated) attractiveness
can predict a targets short- and long-term mate appeal without ability
variables in the model (Model 1 in Table 4). Higher attractiveness was
associated with higher short- and long-term mate appeal in both sexes
(all p .002). As expected, we found a signicant moderation by sex for
long-term mate appeal (β =.10, 95% CI [0.05; 0.16], p <.001):
Attractiveness was a stronger predictor of womens long-term mate
appeal. A similar trend was found for short-term mate appeal (β =.05,
95% CI [0.00; 0.11], p =.065). We then added attractiveness to the only
model previously showing signicant associations between abilitiesin
this case the two creativity measuresand mate appeal (Model 2 in
Table 3). After accounting for attractiveness, the effects of uency on
womens mate appeal were no longer signicant (all p .147; Model 2
in Table 4). Finally, we expected that the association between womens
different types of intelligence and their long-term mate appeal would be
higher at higher levels of attractiveness. Only one of the respective
interaction terms reached signicance: The association between
womens spatial intelligence and their long-term mate appeal was
moderated by attractiveness (β = − .10, 95% CI [0.19; 0.01], p =
.024). However, the direction of this moderation was opposite to what
we had expected: The association between womens spatial intelligence
and their long-term mate appeal was positive at low levels of attrac-
tiveness and negative at high levels of attractiveness (for a plot of the
interaction see OSF).
3.5. Research question 3: Do perceived abilities predict short- and long-
term mate appeal?
In our nal research question, we were interested in whether mate
appeal is predicted by how intelligent, creative, and emotionally
competent targets were perceived during speed dating. Since the
maximum likelihood MLM-approach described by Ackerman et al.
(2015) has problems with models containing multiple dyadic varia-
blesin our case speed-dating ratings of both mate appeal and abil-
itieswe created individual-level scores of speed-dating ability ratings
by averaging over perceivers. Analogous to research question 1, we
entered these scores into separate MLMs for each ability category (in-
telligence, creativity, emotional competence) and relationship type
(short- and long-term appeal). Table 5 shows that higher perceived
verbal intelligence was associated with both higher short- and long-term
mate appeal in both sexes. Furthermore, womens perceived numerical
intelligence was a positive predictor of their long-term mate appeal.
Higher perceived creativity was related to higher long-term mate appeal
for both men and women, as well as, to higher short-term mate appeal in
men, with a similar trend (p =.065) for women. Women who were seen
as more competent in the intrapersonal domain had higher short- and
long-term mate appeal. For men, on the other hand, higher perceived
interpersonal competence was associated with being more desirable for
both types of relationships.
Analogous to RQ 1, we also tested sex as potential moderator by
including the respective interaction terms. Sex moderated the effect of
perceptions of intrapersonal competence on both short-term (β =.16,
95% CI [0.05; 0.27], p =.005) and long-term mate appeal (β =.12, 95%
CI [0.02; 0.22], p =.017) and of perceptions of interpersonal compe-
tence on short-term mate appeal (β = − .11, 95% CI [0.21; 0.00], p =
.042). While there was a trend towards moderation for perceived verbal
intelligence and long-term mate appeal pointing towards higher effects
for female targets (β =.06, 95% CI [0.00; 0.12], p =.051), there were
no further signicant interactions (all p .142).
We also tested whether these effects held when controlling for
attractiveness. The effects of perceived verbal intelligence remained
signicant (all β .11, p .013), while womens perceived numerical
intelligence was no longer a signicant predictor of their long-term mate
appeal (β =.13, 95% CI [0.02; 0.28], p =.08). Whereas mens
perceived creativity was still a positive predictor of their appeal as short-
term mate (β =.08, 95% CI [0.01; 0.15], p =.029), the same was no
longer true for both sexs long-term mate appeal (women: β =0.11, 95%
CI [0.00; 0.22], p =.056; men: β =.07, 95% CI [0.01; 0.14], p =
.072). Finally, with attractiveness in the model, womens perceived
intrapersonal competence no longer predicted their short-term (β =.10,
95% CI [0.04; 0.25], p =.17) or long-term mate appeal (β =.06, 95%
CI [0.08; 0.20], p =.371) but mens interpersonal competence was still
positively related to their appeal for both relationship types (both β
.20, both p <.001).
Finally, we compared predictive validities of subjective ability per-
ceptions and objectively measured abilities. The respective results for all
models containing both types of predictors at the same time can be
viewed in Table 6. Most of the signicant effects of perceived abilities on
mate appeal reported in Table 5 remained signicant, with some of them
reduced to trends. As for objectively measured abilities, here one of the
two previously signicant effects depicted in Table 3 remained, while
the other became a trend. Overall, we found moreand in many cases,
more substantialsignicant effects of ability perceptions than of
ability per se on mate appeal.
3.6. Exploratory analyses: Mate choice as behavioral outcome
Our preregistered research questions and expectations were focused
on the continuous outcomes of perceivers being interested in a short-
term or long-term relationship with targets. However, we also ob-
tained data on a binary behavioral outcome: actual mate choices. We
saw it as important to test whether our ndings from thestill some-
what hypotheticalinterest in short- or long-term relationships with a
person generalized to actual mate choices, which could have direct
potential real-life consequences for participants. Binary outcomes call
for a different data analytical strategy than the one recommended by
Ackerman et al. (2015). Therefore, we conducted generalized MLMs in R
(R Core Team, 2020) using lme4 (Bates et al., 2015) following sugges-
tions by Kluger and Malloy (2019). All code can be found on the OSF.
The overall pattern of results was well in line with our other ndings:
Out of all objective ability measures, only womens creativityin that
case originalitycould signicantly predict being chosen for a second
date (OR =1.42, 95% CI [1.04; 1.93], p =.026; all other p .102).
Attractiveness was a positive predictor of being chosen for both men
Table 2
SRM variance partitioning for short-term and long-term mate appeal.
Variables Percentage of variance in mate appeal accounted for
by SRM component
Total variance
Perceiver Target Relationship +error
Short-term mate appeal
M W 32.37** 21.79** 45.84 1.94
W M 24.05** 20.92** 55.03 1.30
Long-term mate appeal
M W 31.86** 16.66** 51.48 1.79
W M 31.62** 11.93** 56.45 1.27
Note. M W =men rating women; W M =women rating men. As an example,
the rst row reads: The variance in mens ratings of womens short-term mate
appeal consisted of 32.37% perceiver variance (mens characteristics), 21.79%
target variance (womens characteristics), and 45.84% relationship and error
variance. SRM =social relations model. ** p <.001 in the Wald tests.
G. Hofer et al.
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
(OR =1.91, 95% CI [1.43; 2.54], p <.001) and women (OR =2.29, 95%
CI [1.79; 2.92], p <.001) and rendered the effect of originality non-
signicant (p =.081) when included in the same model. Moreover,
out of all intelligence facets, attractiveness only moderated effects of
womens spatial intelligence on their odds of being chosen (OR =0.76,
95% CI [0.59; 0.98], p =.032; all other p .152)following the same
pattern as for long-term mate appeal. Both mens and womens
perceived abilities in the verbal (men: OR =1.89, 95% CI [1.43; 2.50], p
<.001; women: OR =1.92, 95% CI [1.43; 2.58], p <.001) and creative
(men: OR =1.34, 95% CI [1.03; 1.74], p =.030; women: OR =1.48,
95% CI [1.03; 2.13], p =.036) domain were associated with higher odds
of being chosen. The same was true for womens perceived intrapersonal
competence (OR =1.61, 95% CI [1.04; 2.51], p =.034) and mens
perceived interpersonal competence (OR =2.74, 95% CI [1.81; 4.15], p
<.001). The effects of both sexes perceived verbal intelligence and
mens perceived interpersonal competence remained signicant after
controlling for attractiveness (all p <.001); the effects for perceived
creativity and womens perceived intrapersonal competence did not (all
p 0.096). Information on SRM variances, reciprocity correlations, and
more detailed results can be found on the OSF.
4. Discussion
Evolution-based theories predict that people should nd intelligence,
creativity, and emotional competence desirable in a potential partner
(Miller, 2000, 2007). And they doat least when asked about their ideal
partner (e.g., Buss et al., 1990). Moreover, the appeal of intelligence
might be different for men and women, with men focusing more on
physical attractiveness instead of intelligenceparticularly in the short-
term but perhaps also in the long-term context (Buss & Schmitt, 2019).
Again, this holds true for peoples ideas of their ideal partner (e.g.,
Kenrick et al., 1990). However, research on actual potential partners is
sparse, has mostly focused on the appeal of general intelligence, and has
often relied on subjective ability perceptions (Fisman et al., 2006; Kar-
bowski et al., 2016; but cf. Driebe et al., 2021; Prokosch et al., 2009).
The present study set out to investigate whether a persons objectively
measured intelligence, creativity, and emotional competence can pre-
dict how desirable they are for short- and long-term relationships.
Our results provided little support for the idea that people are drawn
to how competent a person truly is. We expected objective ability
measures to be related to long-term mate appeal, with the three
Table 3
Standardized multilevel modeling estimates of target effects of short-term and long-term mate appeal regressed on objective ability measures.
Objectively measured ability level Short-term mate appeal Long-term mate appeal
Women Men Women Men
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
Model 1
Verbal intelligence 0.09 0.150 0.02 0.696 0.09 0.116 0.03 0.429
[0.21; 0.03] [0.11; 0.08] [0.20; 0.02] [0.11; 0.05]
Numerical intelligence 0.08 0.241 0.06 0.321 0.11 0.073 0.05 0.338
[0.05; 0.21] [0.05; 0.16] [0.01; 0.23] [0.05; 0.14]
Spatial intelligence 0.03 0.605 0.03 0.567 0.04 0.445 0.03 0.431
[0.09; 0.15] [0.13; 0.07] [0.15; 0.07] [0.12; 0.05]
Model 2
Creativity - Fluency 0.17* 0.008 0.03 0.442 0.12* 0.044 0.01 0.875
[0.05; 0.29] [0.06; 0.12] [0.00; 0.23] [0.07; 0.08]
Creativity - Originality 0.11 0.071 0.05 0.238 0.11 0.063 0.00 0.987
[0.01; 0.23] [0.14; 0.03] [0.01; 0.22] [0.07; 0.08]
Model 3
Intrapersonal EMA 0.10 0.155 0.01 0.853 0.09 0.141 0.01 0.788
[0.04; 0.23] [0.12; 0.10] [0.03; 0.22] [0.08; 0.10]
Interpersonal EMA 0.07 0.282 0.04 0.330 0.03 0.609 0.06 0.148
[0.21; 0.06] [0.04; 0.13] [0.16; 0.10] [0.02; 0.13]
Note. βs obtained by z-standardization based on pairwise data for mate appeal variables and personwise data for individual difference variables (see also Jauk et al.,
2016); EMA =Emotional Management Abilities; Women/Men refers to the targets sex. * p <.05.
Table 4
Standardized multilevel modeling estimates of target effects of short-term and long-term mate appeal regressed on physical attractiveness (model 1) and physical
attractiveness with creativity (model 2).
Short-term mate appeal Long-term mate appeal
Women Men Women Men
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
Model 1
Physical Attractiveness 0.38* <0.001 0.27* <0.001 0.34* <0.001 0.13* 0.002
[0.30; 0.46] [0.19; 0.35] [0.25; 0.42] [0.05; 0.21]
Model 2
Physical Attractiveness 0.35* <0.001 0.27* <0.001 0.31* <0.001 0.13* 0.002
[0.27; 0.43] [0.19; 0.35] [0.23; 0.40] [0.05; 0.22]
Creativity - Fluency 0.07 0.147 0.00 0.898 0.03 0.494 0.01 0.856
[0.02; 0.16] [0.08; 0.07] [0.06; 0.13] [0.08; 0.07]
Creativity - Originality 0.05 0.297 0.03 0.372 0.05 0.293 0.01 0.738
[0.04; 0.14] [0.10; 0.04] [0.04; 0.14] [0.06; 0.08]
Note. βs obtained by z-standardization based on pairwise data for mate appeal variables and personwise data for individual difference variables (see also Jauk et al.,
2016); Women/Men refers to the targets sex. * p <.05.
G. Hofer et al.
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
intelligence facets also predicting mens short-term mate appeal and
creativity predicting both mens and womens short-term appeal.
However, only ideational uency (one of two measures of creativity)
predicted mate appeal signicantly and this effect was restricted to fe-
male targets. Findings for subjective ability perceptions painted a
different picture: All domains but spatial intelligence showed at least
one positive association with mate appeal and perceptions were overall
more substantial and robust predictors of mate appeal than measured
abilities. The effects of ideational uency and subjective perceptions of
some abilities were considerably reduced after including externally-
rated attractiveness. Indeed, attractiveness was the most important
predictor of initial attractiona result that is well in line with past
research (e.g., Asendorpf et al., 2011; Jauk et al., 2016; Prokosch et al.,
2009). Our expectation of attractiveness as stronger predictor of
womens long-term mate appeal than of mens was conrmed; the
prediction that intelligence would play a more important role for mens
long-term mate appeal than for womens was not. We also found no
support that the association between womens intelligence and their
long-term mate appeal would be more positive for more attractive
women. Instead, there was even some indication of the opposite: At least
for spatial intelligence, less attractive women had higher long-term mate
appeal if they were also more intelligent. This might indicate that
womens (spatial) intelligence could compensate for low attractiveness
when it comes to mate appeal. It contrasts from suggestions that men
only place weight on womens intelligence if a minimum level of
attractiveness is met (Lee et al., 2014; Li et al., 2002) or that womens
intelligence might even be detrimental for their mate appeal if they are
less attractive (Karbowski et al., 2016). Exploratory analyses on actual
mate choices conrmed most of the conclusions drawn from partici-
pantsshort- and long-term mate appeal.
4.1. A detailed look at the appeal of different perceived and measured
The lack of associations between measured verbal, numerical or
spatial intelligence and mate appeal in the present study is somewhat
surprising given that the preference for intelligence in hypothetical
partners is robust across cultures (Buss et al., 1990; Walter et al., 2020).
However, the few studies involving actual potential partners revealed
less consistent ndings: On the one hand, perceived intelligence showed
substantial positive effects on mate appeal, which were moderated by
sex (Fisman et al., 2006) or attractiveness (Karbowski et al., 2016). On
the other hand, previously reported effects of measured verbal intelli-
gence on mate appeal were relatively small compared to those of
perceived intelligence, perceived creativity, and attractiveness (Pro-
kosch et al., 2009). A current study (Driebe et al., 2021) showed no or
even slightly negative effects of measured verbal and general intelli-
gence on mate appeal, again with more substantial positive effects of
perceived intelligence and attractiveness. Thus, our results largely
conform with the small body of literature on the appeal of measured
abilities in actual potential partners.
This study extended past research by looking at different intelligence
facets (see also Aspara et al., 2018). The type of intelligence had little
importance for the appeal of measured intelligencewe found negli-
gible effects for all three facets. The same could not be said for intelli-
gence perceptions: Perceived verbal intelligence showed robust effects;
perceived numerical intelligence was only related to womens long-term
mate appeal if attractiveness was not included; perceived spatial intel-
ligence bore little relation to mate appeal. The appeal of perceived but
not measured verbal intelligence might indicate that targets had
mistakenly equated the conversations general quality with the partners
verbal intelligence. Correlations between perceived and measured ver-
bal intelligence were indeed negligible (r
= − 0.05 and r
0.09). Consistent with this interpretation, past ndings indicated that
people tend to base their intelligence perceptions on speech-related
cues, like the use standard speech, which are not necessarily related to
measured intelligence (Reynolds & Gifford, 2001). However, it should
be noted that all participants had completed a verbal intelligence test
themselves and had received denitions of all abilities before the speed
A small body of research suggests that emotional competence is
desirable in a partner (e.g., Gignac & Callis, 2020). We found mixed
evidence in this regard: Zero-order correlations showed small associa-
tions of womens intrapersonal emotional management abilities and
mens interpersonal emotional management abilities with aggregated
long-term mate appeal across all perceivers (rs ~ 0.2). The same pattern
was also present for ability perceptions on the dyadic level. Mens
preferences for high intrapersonal emotional management abilities are
in line with another speed-dating study that found menbut not
womento be attracted to people with low neuroticism (Luo & Zhang,
2009), which in turn correlates highly with intrapersonal emotional
management skills (Freudenthaler & Neubauer, 2005). However, yet
Table 5
Standardized multilevel modeling estimates of target effects of short-term and long-term mate appeal regressed on ability perceptions averaged across speed-dating
Perceived Ability Level Short-term mate appeal Long-term mate appeal
Women Men Women Men
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
Model 1
Verbal intelligence 0.21* 0.001 0.17* <0.001 0.29* <0.001 0.17* <0.001
[0.09; 0.34] [0.08; 0.25] [0.18; 0.39] [0.10; 0.23]
Numerical intelligence 0.12 0.313 0.01 0.861 0.21* 0.033 0.04 0.538
[0.11; 0.35] [0.14; 0.17] [0.02; 0.40] [0.09; 0.17]
Spatial intelligence 0.04 0.747 0.03 0.675 0.00 0.976 0.03 0.593
[0.19; 0.27] [0.12; 0.19] [0.19; 0.19] [0.09; 0.16]
Model 2
Creativity 0.14 0.065 0.13* 0.002 0.15* 0.036 0.08* 0.024
[0.01; 0.30] [0.05; 0.21] [0.01; 0.29] [0.01; 0.15]
Model 3
Intrapersonal EMA 0.29* 0.002 0.03 0.592 0.22* 0.009 0.02 0.769
[0.10; 0.47] [0.16; 0.09] [0.06; 0.39] [0.12; 0.09]
Interpersonal EMA 0.05 0.555 0.27* <0.001 0.12 0.141 0.22* <0.001
[0.12; 0.22] [0.15; 0.39] [0.04; 0.27] [0.12; 0.33]
Note. βs obtained by z-standardization based on pairwise data for mate appeal variables and personwise data for individual difference variables (see also Jauk et al.,
2016); EMA =Emotional Management Abilities; Women/Men refers to the targets sex. * p <.05.
G. Hofer et al.
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
another study found no associations between neuroticism and being
chosen in speed dating for men or women (Asendorpf et al., 2011). On
the dyadic level we also found no signicant associations between
measured emotional management abilities and mate appeal. Based on
these mixed ndings, another look at the relevance of emotional man-
agement abilities and potential sex differences might be warranted.
Furthermore, while emotional management abilities might arguably be
relevant for well-functioning relationships, several other facets of
emotional competence might as well (e.g., Salovey & Mayer, 1990).
Future research on initial attraction could, therefore, benet from
investigating a diverse set of emotional competencies.
Ideational uency was the only objectively measured ability that
predicted mate appeal and originality showed a similar trend. While we
had expected these effects, we had not predicted that they would be
restricted to female targets. Our results align with reports of men
viewing a potential female partners creativity as more important than
vice versa (Li et al., 2002). But others found creativity to be particularly
attractive in male compared to female targets (Griskevicius et al., 2006;
Watkins, 2017). What is more, Prokosch et al. (2009), who only inves-
tigated male targets, found perceived creativity to be a strong predictor
of mens mate appeal. Our results on perceived creativity are in line with
this: Mens perceived creativity predicted their short- and long-term
mate appeal, with the analogous effects for women only reaching sig-
nicance in the long-term context. Thus, ndings in this area appear to
depend on how creativity is assessed. More research might be needed
before a denite conclusion on the question of sex differences in the
appeal of creativity can be reached.
It is interesting to consider why creativity was the only measured
ability to predict mate appeal. Creativity perceptions were similarly
inaccurate as those of other abilities, suggesting that creativity is not
easier to judge. Perhaps creativity only becomes indirectly attractive at
rst encounters: As an example, more creative people were shown to be
funnier (see also Kellner & Benedek, 2017) and humor has been asso-
ciated with higher mate appeal (Driebe et al., 2021). A look at the
present studys intercorrelation matrix (Table 1) reveals that women’-
sbut not mensoriginality correlated with their perceived funniness,
which in turn correlated with both their short- and long-term mate ap-
peal. Interestingly, the correlation between womens ideational uency
and their perceived funniness was close to zero, speaking against this
reasoning. Alternatively, more creative people could have been seen as
more physically attractive and attractiveness might have driven the ef-
fects of creativity. This would be in line with Prokosch et al. (2009), who
also argued that people might be equating creativity with sexiness(p.
18; see also Kaufman et al., 2016). In our study, more creative women
were indeed rated as more attractivenot only by speed-dating partners
but also by external ratersand (externally rated) attractiveness was the
strongest predictor of mate appeal. Consequently, the effect of womens
creativity on mate appeal was diminished after we controlled for
attractiveness. It is interesting that objective creativity measures
correlated with attractiveness-ratings by people, who have never inter-
acted with the targets, and that these effects were restricted to women.
Future studies on visual cues of creativity and their attractiveness could
shed more light on these effects.
4.2. Implications for research and theories on mate appeal and abilities
If intelligence and other abilities were indeed sexually selected in-
dicators of general tness, as proposed by Miller (2000, 2007), we would
Table 6
Standardized multilevel modeling estimates of target effects of short-term and long-term mate appeal simultaneously regressed on objective ability measures and
respective ability perceptions averaged across speed-dating ratings.
Perceived and Objectively
Measured Ability Level
Short-term mate appeal Long-term mate appeal
Women Men Women Men
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
p β
[95% CI]
Model 1
Verbal intelligence 0.08 0.194 0.03 0.532 0.07 0.138 0.04 0.325
[0.19; 0.04] [0.12; 0.06] [0.16; 0.02] [0.11; 0.04]
SD Verbal intelligence 0.21* 0.002 0.17* <0.001 0.27* <0.001 0.17* <0.001
[0.08; 0.33] [0.08; 0.17] [0.17; 0.38] [0.10; 0.18]
Numerical intelligence 0.03 0.615 0.02 0.694 0.04 0.398 0.02 0.683
[0.09; 0.16] [0.08; 0.13] [0.06; 0.15] [0.07; 0.10]
SD Numerical intelligence 0.11 0.383 0.01 0.901 0.18 0.066 0.04 0.507
[0.13; 0.34] [0.15; 0.17] [0.01; 0.38] [0.09; 0.18]
Spatial intelligence 0.04 0.496 0.00 0.991 0.03 0.537 0.02 0.655
[0.07; 0.15] [0.10; 0.10] [0.12; 0.06] [0.10; 0.06]
SD Spatial intelligence 0.04 0.725 0.03 0.701 0.02 0.842 0.03 0.647
[0.19; 0.27] [0.13; 0.20] [0.17; 0.21] [0.10; 0.16]
Model 2
Creativity - Fluency 0.16* 0.010 0.04 0.396 0.11 0.052 0.01 0.766
[0.04; 0.28] [0.05; 0.12] [0.00; 0.23] [0.06; 0.09]
Creativity - Originality 0.10 0.094 0.08 0.067 0.10 0.086 0.01 0.723
[0.02; 0.22] [0.16; 0.01] [0.01; 0.21] [0.09; 0.06]
SD Creativity 0.11 0.140 0.14 0.001 0.13 0.068 0.09 0.023
[0.04; 0.25] [0.06; 0.22] [0.01; 0.26] [0.01; 0.16]
Model 3
Intrapersonal EMA 0.10 0.072 0.04 0.350 0.10* 0.048 0.01 0.701
[0.01; 0.22] [0.12; 0.04] [0.00; 0.21] [0.09; 0.06]
SD Intrapersonal EMA 0.29* 0.002 0.04 0.538 0.23* 0.006 0.02 0.666
[0.11; 0.47] [0.17; 0.09] [0.07; 0.40] [0.13; 0.08]
Interpersonal EMA 0.08 0.188 0.02 0.645 0.04 0.478 0.03 0.309
[0.20; 0.04] [0.05; 0.09] [0.15; 0.07] [0.03; 0.09]
SD Interpersonal EMA 0.05 0.545 0.28* <0.001 0.11 0.156 0.23* <0.001
[0.12; 0.23] [0.15; 0.40] [0.04; 0.27] [0.12; 0.33]
Note. βs obtained by z-standardization based on pairwise data for mate appeal variables and personwise data for individual difference variables (see also Jauk et al.,
2016); SD =Speed-Dating ability perception; EMA =Emotional Management Abilities; Women/Men refers to the targets sex.
* p <.05.
G. Hofer et al.
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
expect them to be related to attraction at rst encounters. We found little
support for this. Moreover, our results regarding sex differences in the
appeal of abilities and attractiveness only partly correspond to sexual
strategies theory (Buss & Schmitt, 2019): While men placed more weight
on attractiveness than women, the latter did not show a stronger pref-
erence for high intelligence. Our results also align only partly with hy-
pothetical partner preferences (e.g., Buss et al., 1990; Schwarz &
Hassebrauck, 2012; Walter et al., 2020). Taken together, the role of
abilitiesand especially that of intelligencefor initial romantic
attraction might have been overestimated in the past.
While our results do not support that objectively measured abil-
itiesperhaps apart from creativityare attractive at very rst, brief
interactions, abilities may become relevant later in the relationship.
Miller and Todd (1998) proposed a sequential model, where mate
choices are viewed on a temporal continuum from rst dates to mar-
riage, with different types of cues being relevant at the different stages.
According to these authors, physical cues like attractiveness might be
especially relevant at rst meetings; intelligence, which takes longer to
assess, might only become important at later stages. Since we assessed
mate appeal after brief rst dates, our study is located at the very
beginning of the continuum and, in that, our results could be in line with
Miller and Todds proposition. In accordance, Gignac and Zajenkowski
(2019) found that peoples long-term romantic partners can provide at
least moderately accurate intelligence estimates. Compared with the low
accuracy at initial encounters that we found, it appears that it takes
some time to form accurate intelligence judgments in a romantic
context. In a large census-based study, Aspara et al. (2018) also found
that verbal, numerical, and logical intelligence showed small but
consistent correlations to mens likelihood of getting and staying mar-
ried. While we also intended to investigate the effects of abilities on
long-term mate appeal, this may not be achieved reliably during very
short encounters as people have had too little information about one
another. A more appropriate test of whether abilities can truly predict
long-term romantic outcomes would be a longitudinal study that follows
up on speed-dating matches and investigates which of them result in
long-term romantic relationships (for such projects without inclusion of
abilities see Asendorpf et al., 2011; Eastwick & Finkel, 2008).
The positive results of past studies on the desirability of abilities
might also stem from an over-reliance on subjective ability perceptions.
It could be argued that, if a trait is genuinely desirable in prospective
mates, it should also be assessable somewhat accurately after short
dates. However, the correlations between perceived and measured
abilities in the present study were only around 0.1 for most abilities.
While this contrasts from higher correlations reported for zero-
acquaintance perceptions in controlled laboratory settings (e.g., Bor-
kenau et al., 2004), it is in line with a recent speed-dating study (Driebe
et al., 2021). Correspondingly, Kerr et al. (2020) found lower accuracy
for ratings after rst dates than for those after rst platonic interactions.
Ability perception at rst dates might be particularly inuenced by
invalid cues, biases, and stereotypes (see also Driebe et al., 2021).
Indeed, we found stereotypical sex differences for perceptionsmen
were seen as much more numerically and spatially intelligent, while
women were assigned higher verbal intelligence, creativity, and
emotional competence. For the most part, these perceived sex differ-
ences were not mirrored in objective measures. Moreover, some ability
perceptions showed high intercorrelations (e.g., perceived numerical
and spatial intelligence correlated at 0.75 - 0.83) suggesting an inuence
of the halo error and other transfer effects (Driebe et al., 2021; Thorn-
dike, 1920). In line with halo effects, some of the positive effects of
perceived abilities on mate appeal were driven by attractiveness, even
when it was based on external ratings. Highly attractive people are
assigned several positive attributes, irrespective of actually possessing
them (Langlois et al., 2000; see also Driebe et al., 2021). The intercor-
relation matrix (Table 1) shows that this was also the case for the present
study: More attractive people were also viewed as more verbally intel-
ligent, creative (only men), and intra- as well as interpersonally
competent. When measured objectively, only womens creativity and
intrapersonal emotional competence correlated with attractiveness.
Consequently, many of the positive associations between perceived
abilities and mate appeal were diminished after controlling for attrac-
tiveness. We conclude that ability perceptions do not reliably reect
actual abilities, especially when drawn from very short encounters and
in potentially romantic contexts. Therefore, we strongly advise against
using ability perceptions to draw conclusions about actual abilities.
The discrepancy between hypothetical and actual partner prefer-
ences for abilities raises one nal question: Do people know what truly
attracts them? Similar mismatches between stated and actual prefer-
ences have been reported in the past (Eastwick et al., 2014; Eastwick &
Finkel, 2008; Feingold, 1990). The present pattern of ndings points
towards one potential cause for this mismatch: Peoples hypothetical
mate preferences might be largely driven by the traits they (inaccu-
rately) perceive in others they are drawn to (e.g., Hermione is attracted
to Ron and perceives Ron as very creative. Thus, she might report a
preference for creative partners. If Ron is actually uncreative, Her-
miones hypothetical preferences might be wrong). To the extent that
there are individual differences in the accuracy of perceptions, one
would then expect more accurate perceptions to be related to a better
match between hypothetical and actual preferences. Future studies that
combine hypothetical preferences for abilities with data on the
perceived and measured abilities of real-life dating partners could put
this thought to a formal test.
4.3. Strengths, limitations, and future directions
The present study is one of only a few that investigated associations
between abilities and mate appeal in actual potential partners,
employing both subjective and objective ability measures. Moreover, we
extended existing research by considering various abilities that have
previously been suggested as potentially relevant to mate appeal. Using
the speed-dating paradigm allowed us to consider mate appeal in the
context of real-life rst interactions.
Despite these strengths, our ndings need to be viewed in light of
some limitations. While we planned our sample according to power-
based recommendations for SRM designs (Kenny et al., 2006) and
could analyze over 2000 ratings, a higher number of participants and
dates would inarguably have been more sensitive to very small effects. It
should be noted that Driebe et al. (2021) reported similarly non-
signicant effects of intelligence on mate appeal in a sample of more
than 700. A reexamination of our resultsparticularly of those for
creativity and emotional management abilitiesin a larger sample
would still increase condence. As often the case with psychological
studies, our sample consisted predominantly of young and highly
educated participants, limiting the generalizability of our ndings. An
overall tendency for high intelligence may also have caused effects to be
attenuated. Nevertheless, when transformed to intelligence quotients
based on age-specic norms, the average intelligence scores were
neither conspicuously high nor particularly homogeneous (verbal IQ: M
=97.75, SD =12.46; numerical IQ: M =104.01, SD =14.18; spatial IQ:
M =98.83, SD =16.18). Moreover, our analyses focused on linear ef-
fects of abilities on mate appeal, not considering the recently proposed
potential for nonlinear relations (Gignac et al., 2018). While this could
be a promising future research direction, it likely requires an intellec-
tually more diverse sample. Finally, our ndings may only apply to
initial romantic encounters. Existing longitudinal speed-dating studies
(e.g., Asendorpf et al., 2011) suggest that effects observed for rst
meetings may not easily generalize to later relationships. Thus, the idea
that people are attracted to intelligence and other abilities should not be
discarded before longitudinal projects have investigated the effects on
long-term mate appeal.
G. Hofer et al.
Journal of Research in Personality 93 (2021) 104113
4.4. Conclusion
There are good reasons to look for intelligence, creativity, and
emotional competence in a potential partner. Despite this, our results
indicate that appearing to be smart might be more important than being
smart, at least when it comes to rst short interactions. It is still unclear
whether this means that the cross-culturally robust preferences for high
intelligence and other abilities in the ideal partner do not translate at all
into real-life dating or whether they become only relevant at later stages
of courtship or only under certain circumstances. Future longitudinal
research that compares hypothetical to actual partner preferences could
clarify whether being smart truly relates to being more desirable.
5. Data accessibility statement
Due to copyright reasons, we cannot share the tests of intelligence
(Liepmann et al., 2007) and emotional competence (Freudenthaler &
Neubauer, 2005) used in the present study. The remaining material (i.e.,
a scorecard, the alternative uses task, and a template for the attrac-
tiveness ratings) can be found in our OSF project (
Analysis scripts are also available via this link. Data for this manuscript
cannot be shared openly, since it cannot be anonymized completely due
to its dyadic nature (Sch¨
onbrodt, 2018). We are, therefore, in the process
of submitting these data to a database as scientic use le. Once this has
been nished, we will include a link to them in our OSF project so that
interested readers can gain access. In the meantime, data can be ob-
tained from the authors.
CRediT authorship contribution statement
Gabriela Hofer: Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal analysis,
Writing - original draft, Project administration. Roman Burkart:
Conceptualization, Investigation, Methodology, Writing - review &
editing. Laura Langmann: Investigation, Methodology, Writing - re-
view & editing. Aljoscha C. Neubauer: Conceptualization, Supervision,
Writing - review & editing.
Declaration of Competing Interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial
interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to inuence
the work reported in this paper.
We want to thank Angelina Felber for her contribution to data
collection, Jaap Denissen, Robert Ackerman, and Avraham N. Kluger for
their input regarding the use of multilevel modeling for speed-dating
data, and Mathias Benedek, Simon Ceh, and Ana Arsenovi´
c for their
feedback on an earlier version of this manuscript. The authors
acknowledge the nancial support by the University of Graz.
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... 7 These photos were used for physical attractiveness ratings that are not relevant to the present research questions (for a detailed description see Hofer et al., 2021). 8 We removed ratings from 55 dates where at least one of the two partners indicated to know the other. ...
... Todd, 1998). The centrality of physical attractiveness at first, short dates might have further impeded accuracy: Stranger-estimates in the majority of ability domains showed positive correlations-some of them as high as 0.6 to 0.7-with those of physical attractiveness (for detailed results see Hofer et al., 2021). Thus, participants might have equated their interaction partner's attractiveness with their cognitive, creative, and emotional abilities, irrespective of whether they were actually competent in these domains (see also Langlois et al., 2000). ...
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Who is the best judge of a person’s abilities—the person, a knowledgeable informant, or strangers just met in a 3-min speed date? To test this, we collected ability measures as well as self-, informant- and stranger-estimates of verbal, numerical and spatial intelligence, creativity, and intra- and interpersonal emotional competence from 175 young adults. While people themselves were the most accurate about the majority of their abilities, their verbal and spatial intelligence were only estimable by informants or strangers, respectively. These differences in accuracy were not accompanied by differences in the domains’ relevance to people’s self-worth or strangers’ judgment certainty. These results indicate self-other knowledge asymmetries in abilities but raise questions about the reasons behind these asymmetries.
... The centrality of physical attractiveness at first, short dates might have further impeded accuracy: Stranger-estimates in the majority of ability domains showed positive correlations-some of them as high as .6 to .7-with those of of physical attractiveness (for detailed results see Hofer et al., 2021). Thus, participants might have equated their interaction partner's attractiveness with their cognitive, creative, and emotional abilities, irrespective of whether they were actually competent in these domains (see also Langlois et al., 2000). ...
... These photos were used for physical attractiveness ratings that are not relevant to the present research questions (for a detailed description seeHofer et al., 2021). ...
Who is the best judge of a person’s abilities—the person, a knowledgeable informant or strangers just met in a 3-min speed date? To test this, we collected ability measures as well as self-, informant- and stranger-estimates of verbal, numerical and spatial intelligence, creativity, and intra- and interpersonal emotional competence from 175 young adults. While people themselves were the most accurate about the majority of their abilities, their verbal and spatial intelligence were only estimable by informants or strangers, respectively. These differences in accuracy were not accompanied by differences in the domains’ relevance to people’s self-worth or observability to strangers. These results indicate self-other knowledge asymmetries for abilities but raise questions about the reasons behind these asymmetries.
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We established realness as the relatively stable tendency to act on the outside the way one feels on the inside, without regard for proximal personal or social consequences. In nine studies, we showed that realness is a) a core feature of individual differences in authenticity, b) generally adaptive but largely unrelated to agreeableness, c) highly stable, d) reliably observable in dyadic behavior, and e) predictive of responses to situations with potential for personal or social costs. Informants both perceive agreeable motives in real behavior and recognize that being real can be disagreeable. We concluded that realness represents an important individual difference construct that is foundational for authentic social behavior, and that being real comes with both costs and benefits.
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Considerable research has examined human mate preferences across cultures, finding universal sex differences in preferences for attractiveness and resources as well as sources of systematic cultural variation. Two competing perspectives—an evolutionary psychological perspective and a biosocial role perspective—offer alternative explanations for these findings. However, the original data on which each perspective relies are decades old, and the literature is fraught with conflicting methods, analyses, results, and conclusions. Using a new 45-country sample ( N = 14,399), we attempted to replicate classic studies and test both the evolutionary and biosocial role perspectives. Support for universal sex differences in preferences remains robust: Men, more than women, prefer attractive, young mates, and women, more than men, prefer older mates with financial prospects. Cross-culturally, both sexes have mates closer to their own ages as gender equality increases. Beyond age of partner, neither pathogen prevalence nor gender equality robustly predicted sex differences or preferences across countries.
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In several meta-analyses, self-estimates of abilities have been shown to correlate surprisingly low with individuals’ real (i.e., psychometrically assessed) abilities. We recently confirmed this in a study where we investigated the accuracy of self- and peer-estimates of six central abilities (verbal, numerical, spatial intelligence, interpersonal and intrapersonal competence, creative/divergent thinking). Here, we describe two studies: In study 1, we first investigated, to which extent self-estimates of adolescents’ central abilities can be predicted from three sources: relevant school grades, the pertinent psychometric ability itself, and personality (big five traits and narcissism). We found that self-estimates are a stronger reflection of the individuals’ personality than their abilities per se. Second, we wanted to assess to what degree (professional) interests, which might guide career decisions in adolescents/young adults, are predicted by self-estimated and psychometrically assessed abilities. We found that professional interests are mostly a function of self-estimates and not of ‘true’ abilities, a finding that we replicated in study 2 with young adults. Given the strong associations between self-estimates and personality and past findings showing that abilities are better predictors of professional success than personality traits are, this might be non-optimal.
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The self–other knowledge asymmetry model (SOKA) assumes that some personality traits might be open to oneself and other persons (‘open area’), while other traits are more accurately perceived by others (‘blind spot’); a third group of traits might be visible only to oneself and not to others (‘hidden area’), and finally a trait might neither be visible to oneself nor to one's peers (‘unknown area’). So far, this model has been tested only for personality traits and general intelligence, not for more specific abilities; to do so was the novel intention of our study. We tested which of six abilities (verbal, numerical, and spatial intelligence; interpersonal and intrapersonal competence; and creative potential/divergent thinking ability) are in which SOKA area. We administered performance tests for the six abilities in two samples – 233 14-year-olds and 215 18-year-olds – and collected self- and peer-ratings for each domain. Numerical intelligence and creativity were judged validly both from self- and peer-perspectives (‘open area’). In the younger sample verbal intelligence was validly estimated only by peers (‘blind spot’), whereas the older group showed some insight into their own abilities as well (‘blind spot’ to ‘open area’). While in the younger group only the pupils themselves could validly estimate their intra- and interpersonal competence (‘hidden area’), in the older group peers were also successful in estimating other's interpersonal competence, albeit only with low accuracy (‘hidden area’ to ‘open area’). For 18-year-olds, spatial ability was in the hidden area too, but in 14-year-olds this could neither be validly estimated by pupils themselves nor by peers (‘unknown area’). These results implicate the possibility of non-optimal career choices of young people, and could, therefore, be helpful in guiding professional career counselling.
Self-reported mate preferences suggest intelligence is valued across cultures, consistent with the idea that human intelligence evolved as a sexually selected trait. The validity of self-reports has been questioned though, so it remains unclear whether objectively assessed intelligence is indeed attractive. In Study 1, 88 target men had their intelligence measured and based on short video clips were rated on intelligence, funniness, physical attractiveness and mate appeal by 179 women. In Study 2 (N = 763), participants took part in 2 to 5 speed-dating sessions in which their intelligence was measured and they rated each other's intelligence, funniness, and mate appeal. Measured intelligence did not predict increased mate appeal in either study, whereas perceived intelligence and funniness did. More intelligent people were perceived as more intelligent, but not as funnier. Results suggest that intelligence is not important for initial attraction, which raises doubts concerning the sexual selection theory of intelligence.
It is a widely held view that “nobody knows you better than yourself.” However, the low validity of self-estimates of intelligence and other abilities indicated by a considerable body of research does not support this notion. Individuals overestimate themselves and do so particularly for domains in which they perform poorly (the so-called Dunning-Kruger effect). Interestingly, intelligence estimates given by others are equally accurate or sometimes even more accurate than self-estimates. This chapter provides an overview of research on self- and other-estimates of intelligence and potential moderators of their accuracy. It also aims to bring the research lines on self- and other-estimates of intelligence together within the framework of the self-other knowledge asymmetry (SOKA) model proposed by Simine Vazire. The ability to predict for which intelligence subfactors one of the two perspectives might provide more accurate estimates has implications for both research and practical fields like vocational counseling.
Situational judgments tests (SJTs) offer many advantages over traditional trait questionnaires but often show low internal consistency, presumably due to heterogeneity of the assessed constructs (Lievens et al. 2008; Whetzel & McDaniel, 2009). Authors have suggested that test-retest-reliability (TRT) might be a better-suited measure for SJTs. Here, we analyzed TRT of the typical-performance emotional management test (TEMT, Freudenthaler & Neubauer, 2005) – and SJT for emotional management. We additionally report further and hitherto not analyzed validity evidence with respect to a maximum-performance emotional management SJT (STEM, MacCann & Roberts, 2008) and the widely used Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue, Petrides & Furnham, 2003). For a 2 week-interval, we found satisfying test-retest reliabilities for both scales of the TEMT (inter- and intrapersonal emotional management; .76 and .83, respectively). Intrapersonal ability correlated moderately to highly with all four TEIQue main factors and the total score, whereas interpersonal ability showed low to medium relations. Relations with the STEM were smaller. Our results support that SJTs can show good reliabilities – when assessed via TRT – and emphasize the importance to distinguish between typical- and maximum-performance tests of emotional abilities.
Some people are open books, with their distinctive personalities being accurately perceived after a brief interaction, whereas others are harder to read. Such open books have in turn been found to have greater well-being, at least within lower-stakes, platonic getting-acquainted interactions. Do individual differences in expressive accuracy emerge in higher-stakes settings, such as first dates, and are people higher in well-being still easier to read? Using a speed-dating paradigm (N = 372; Ndyads = 4723), accuracy on average was significant but relatively low. Nevertheless, strong individual differences in expressive accuracy emerged and were associated with well-being. In sum, although it may be more difficult to form accurate impressions on first dates, targets higher in well-being may make the task easier.
People tend to rate exceptional levels of IQ (99th percentile) as less attractive than high levels of IQ (90th percentile), and it remains to be determined why. Furthermore, the desirability of emotional intelligence (EI) in a prospective partner has yet to be investigated. Finally, we sought to determine whether individual differences in self-assessed and objectively measured IQ/EI correlated with desirability ratings of IQ/EI in a prospective partner. Based on a general community sample (N = 236) and an undergraduate sample (N = 220), we found that the association between rated desirability and the IQ/EI level of a prospective partner exhibited a threshold effect at the 90th IQ/EI percentile. Furthermore, a statistically significant decrease in rated desirability between the 90th to the 99th percentiles was observed for IQ, but not for EI. We found that participants who reduced their ratings of desirability between the 90th and 99th IQ percentiles did so due to compatibility concerns (≈60%) and social skill concerns (≈40%). We also found that self-assessed IQ and objectively measured IQ correlated positively with desirability ratings at the 90th IQ percentile, and self-assessed EI (but not objectively measured EI) with desirability ratings at the 90th EI percentile. Finally, we found that, on average, people ranked/rated EI to be somewhat more desirable than IQ. We interpreted the results as consistent with compatibility theory, active assortative mating for intelligence, and the possibility that many people subscribe to the stereotype that exceptionally intelligent people suffer from interpersonal skill difficulties.
People can estimate their own and their romantic partner's intelligence (IQ) with some level of accuracy, which may facilitate the observation of assortative mating for IQ. However, the degree to which people may overestimate their own (IQ), as well as overestimate their romantic partner's IQ, is less well established. In the current study, we investigated four outstanding issues in this area. First, in a sample of 218 couples, we examined the degree to which people overestimate their own and their partner's IQ, on the basis of comparisons between self-estimated intelligence (SEI) and objectively measured IQ (Advanced Progressive Matrices). Secondly, we evaluated whether assortative mating for intelligence was driven principally by women (the males-compete/females choose model of sexual selection) or both women and men (the mutual mate model of sexual selection). Thirdly, we tested the hypothesis that assortative mating for intelligence may occur for both SEI and objective IQ. Finally, the possibility that degree of intellectual compatibility may relate positively to relationship satisfaction was examined. We found that people overestimated their own IQ (women and men ≈ 30 IQ points) and their partner's IQ (women = 38 IQ points; men = 36 IQ points). Furthermore, both women and men predicted their partner's IQ with some degree of accuracy (women: r = 0.30; men: r = 0.19). However, the numerical difference in the correlations was not found to be significant statistically. Finally, the degree of intellectual compatibility (objectively and subjectively assessed) failed to correlate significantly with relationship satisfaction for both sexes. It would appear that women and men participate in the process of mate selection, with respect to evaluating IQ, consistent with the mutual mate model of sexual selection. However, the personal benefits of intellectual compatibility seem less obvious.