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17 October 2008
Dating tip: selflessness makes you sexy
by George Atkinson

Women place great importance on altruistic traits like selflessness, say psychologists at The University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. In studies involving more than 1,000 people, Dr Tim Phillips discovered that women place significantly greater importance on altruistic traits than anything else. His findings have just been published in the British Journal of Psychology.

"Evolutionary theory predicts competition between individuals and yet we see many examples in nature of individuals disadvantaging themselves to help others. In humans, particularly, we see individuals prepared to put themselves at considerable risk to help individuals they do not know for no obvious reward," explained Dr Phillips.

Participants in the studies were questioned about a range of qualities they look for in a mate, including examples of altruistic behavior such as 'donates blood regularly' and 'volunteered to help out in a local hospital'. Women placed significantly greater importance on altruistic traits in all three studies.

"For many years the standard explanation for altruistic behavior towards non-relatives has been based on reciprocity and reputation - a version of 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours'. I believe we need to look elsewhere to understand the roots of human altruism. The expansion of the human brain would have greatly increased the cost of raising children so it would have been important for our ancestors to choose mates both willing and able to be good, long-term parents. Displays of altruism could well have provided accurate clues to this and genes linked to altruism would have been favored as a result," hypothesized Dr Phillips.

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Source: University of Nottingham

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