Professor Jessica Tracy of the University of British Columbia and colleagues had more than 1,000 adult participants rate the sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex engaged in universal displays of happiness, via broad smiles; pride, via raised heads or puffed-up chests and shame with lowered heads or averted eyes.
The study, published in the journal Emotion, found women were least attracted to smiling, happy men, preferring men who looked proud and powerful or moody and ashamed, while male participants were most sexually attracted to women who looked happy and least attracted to women who appeared proud and confident.
Displays of shame linked to an awareness of social norms and appeasement elicits trust in others and this may explain shame's surprising attractiveness to both genders -- given that both men and women prefer a partner they can trust, Tracy says.
Past research linked smiling with a lack of dominance, consistent with traditional gender norms of the "submissive and vulnerable" woman, but inconsistent with "strong, silent" man, the researchers say.
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