A study has found that selfless men are more desirable to women than good looks.
The study was carried out by the University of Sunderland and the University of Worcester.
The new study shows that while women do find good-looking men desirable, if they have to choose they are more likely to choose the altruistic guy.
The research has been published in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.
Dr Helen Driscoll, senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland, said: “Altruism indicates that a man may be a good partner and father, and because women can have only a limited number of children in their lifetime, their reproductive success benefits from ensuring that the children they do have receive nurturance and resource investment, so they go on to reproduce successfully themselves.
“In the environment humans evolved in, finding a long-term partner who had the ability and willingness to invest in offspring was crucial to this. Therefore, women have evolved preferences for long-term mates who display traits which indicate the ability and willingness to invest in relationships and children.
“Whilst men who are both physically attractive and altruistic are most preferred, the study suggests that altruism is more important than physical attractiveness in a potential long-term partner.”
The study featured 202 straight women recruited online, most of whom were in their early 20s.
They looked at 12 sets of photographs, each of which showed the faces of two men, one handsome, the other much less so.
The images were accompanied by scenarios, eight of which described situations where altruism, or its absence, played a key role.
One typical scenario gave the example of two people walking through a busy town, and noticing a homeless person sitting near a cafe.
Person E decides to go into the cafe to buy a sandwich and a cup of tea to give to the homeless person outside. Person F pretends to use his mobile phone and walks straight past the homeless person.
The altruistic behaviour was attributed to the handsome man in some scenarios, and the not-so-handsome man in others.
In others, neutral behaviour was attributed to both, allowing researchers to determine the importance of looks when the guys were described in similar terms.
After scanning the photos and reading the scenarios, the women rated (on a one-to-five scale) how attractive they found each man, for both a brief affair or a committed romantic relationship.
The research was carried out in conjunction with two undergraduate psychology students at the University of Sunderland.