Attention single women: If you want to snag a man, you better be nice.
Or at least that's what the results of a new study suggest. The three-part study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin on Friday, found that men perceive "nice," responsive women as more feminine and sexually attractive. Graduate and undergraduate students participated in the observational research from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, the University of Rochester and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
But before you start practicing "Really? Tell me more" in the mirror, here's how the researchers came to this conclusion: They created three environments in which men and women would interact with one another and share a recent negative, personal experience. One simulation was face-to-face and the other two were online (the chat partner's responses were manipulated by the researchers, but photos of supposed chat partners were given to participants). The male and female participants then rated how responsive, how sexually attractive and how masculine or feminine their partners were.
In all three experiments, men found responsive women to be more feminine and attractive, while there didn't seem to be any link between responsiveness and women's perceptions of masculinity or male attractiveness. What's more, men found these so-called "nice" women to be more worthy of a long-term relationship. Those who were found to be "responsive" empathized with the complainant, saying things like "You must have gone through a very difficult time" (versus something along the lines of "Doesn't sound so bad to me") when their partner shared his or her negative event. This type of understanding is what the researchers categorized as "nice."
Lead researcher, Gurit E. Birnbaum from the School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, said that these results should only be generalized to first encounters, when the man and woman interacting don't know much about each other.
"In such situations, people tend to rely on traditional norms of how men and women should behave," she told The Huffington Post in an email. "When people's behavior fits with such expectations, they are perceived as more attractive."
There may even be a subconscious pressure for both men and women to conform to traditional gender norms in romantic situations: A past study found that women tend to take on a more responsive, "feminine" role during intimate conversations, even if they don't take on that role in other situations. However, since Birnbaum specifically notes that this perception of niceness seems to be important only during an initial encounter, like a first date, there's no reason to deduce that you have to pretend to be anything you're not.
"'Being nice' and things like that are not necessarily based on who the partner is and what the partner really wants," Birnbaum added. "When a partner is truly responsive, the relationship feels special and unique."
Plus, with women surpassing men in the realm or education and replacing men as the family breadwinners in recent years, egalitarian relationships are becoming the norm -- and men seem to be adapting just fine.
So unless an interaction feels "special and unique" -- aka you're into the date -- don't feel pressured to act extra agreeable. If you like the particular man you're talking to, you'll actually be interested and responsive. No need to play nice.