A rich, good-looking man seeking a wife might do well to play down his wealth. That's the implication of a study by John Lycett and colleagues suggesting that some women are wary of men who are both attractive and wealthy.
One hundred and eighty-six female students rated the attractiveness of several men whose photographs were displayed on slides together with 'lonely-hearts' style profiles.
The men's faces were taken from theatrical and modelling agencies and had been categorised earlier as either unattractive, of average attractiveness or highly attractive. The accompanying profiles were standard fare (e.g. “likes socialising, good sense of humour”) but also included the men's careers. These were deliberately chosen to imply high (e.g. Architect), medium (e.g. Teacher) or low (e.g. Postman) status and wealth.
The female students were asked to rate the men for their attractiveness as long-term partners. Overall, the better looking men were rated as more attractive, as were those men with higher status.
Crucially, however, there was an interaction between facial attractiveness and status, such that good-looking men with high status were actually rated as less attractive than good-looking men of medium status. The researchers said this reflected the female strategy of avoiding men who are more likely to be unfaithful in the future.
“We provide the first evidence that a subtle shift in preference takes place at the more desirable end of the mate-choice continuum,” the researchers concluded, “...by showing greater preference for physically attractive males of lower status, females may be slightly adjusting their preferences away from males who are potentially more likely to cheat”.
Chu, S., Hardaker, R. & Lycett, J.E. (2007). Too good to be 'true'? The handicap of high socio-economic status in attractive males. Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 1291-1300.