In the ruthless world of the mating game, plain-looking men instinctively know that being funny, smart or poetic helps to compensate for a less-than-stellar exterior.
That gut feeling has now gained scientific validation from an unusual study published Wednesday.
Average-looking men become more alluring when women sense the man has an imaginative spark, it found.
But for women, sadly, there may not be the same boost. Indeed, one experiment suggests that less attractive women even worsen their mating chances if they show mental zing.
“Creative women with less attractive faces seem to be perhaps penalised in some way,” said Christopher Watkins, a psychologist at Abertay University in Scotland, who carried out the research.
Watkins first recruited a batch of volunteers who looked at pictures of men and women, rating each on the basis of their physical looks alone.
Armed with this benchmark of beauty, he then submitted the same pictures to another group of volunteers — but this time he provided clues about the subjects’ creativity.
Attached to each picture were mini exercises in the imagination.
In one test, there was a 100-word text based on ‘The Lovers’, a surrealist painting by Rene Magritte in which two lovers kiss, their heads strangely covered in white cloths.
Half of these texts, attributed to the persons pictured, were dull or factual (“Are they being held hostage?”), and the other half were inspired or conceptual (“It is perhaps an indicator that looks fade and in the end it does not matter as you will always be left with the personality of someone”).
In a second test, head shots were linked with an everyday object — a tyre — and a text describing an alternative use for it.
Half of these descriptions were inventive, others less so.
The results showed that men with less attractive faces get a big boost in the popularity contest if they show a creative touch, Watkins found.
“Creative guys with less attractive faces were almost identical in attractiveness to really good looking guys who were not as creative,” he said in a phone interview.