Creativity is sexy, but not all creative expression is equally valued. In the new study Who Finds Bill Gates Sexy? Penn professor Scott Barry Kaufman asked 815 undergrads to rank different forms of creativity by sex appeal. (H/T: J 2.0) Check out this charty goodness:
In the bottom 10 were more technological or applied types of creativity, including “the development of scientific experiment designs,” “applying math in an original way to solve a practical program,” “exterior decorating,” “making websites,” “entering projects or papers into a science contest,” and “making ad campaigns.”
Kaufman’s book Mating Intelligence Unleashed contains a chapter dedicated to creativity, which I wrote about in The Incomparable Mating Value of Male Creativity.
“Creativity displays signal a bunch of stuff that women want in a mate. Geoffrey Miller’s research on courtship displays suggests that sexually selected mental indicators include qualities such as musical ability, drawing ability, humor and verbal ability. Importantly, these qualities vary a great deal from one individual to another. Women are choosy, and they need ways of distinguishing male traits. Obviously, “has 10 fingers and 10 toes” isn’t going to cut it. Creative display attracts women because it reveals the following heritable traits:
Relatively high intelligence
Ability to express emotions
Ability to obtain social status and resources
Research shows that creative men do have more sex partners. In fact, research by Nettle and Clegg reveals that professional artists and poets have twice as many sexual partners as men in other professions. Another study by Beaussart, Kaufman and Kaufman also found that people who engage in a wide variety of creative activities had a higher number of sexual partners. The link between creativity and mating success is very clear.”
Additionally, UCLA psychologist Martie Haselton specializes in the effect of ovulation on female preferences. Women display an increased preference for “good genes” during ovulation. What traits comprise these good genes? According to Haselton, creativity and intelligence top the list, and wealth is way down. For example, a study of ovulating female college students found that they preferred the creatively talented poor guy over the wealthy guy of average intelligence.
Another recent study of 1,500 women (mean age 2, found that ovulating women are most attracted to men who can make the best music. Darwin suggested that music’s primary function is to aid sexual courtship, because it indicates advanced cognitive capabilities.
Gregory Feist has studied the appeal of difference forms of creativity, drawing a distinction between ornamental-aesthetic and applied-technological forms of creativity.
It turns out that the ornamental-aesthetic form is correlated to other desirable traits – displays of emotion, openness to experience and capacity for empathy. Women love that. And it’s much easier to display or perform this kind of creativity to a large group of people.
Kaufman’s study adds an important element:
“Our findings also suggested that assortative mating (“like attracts like”) plays a role in the sexual attractiveness of creativity. In general people find attractive creative achievement in domains in which they themselves achieve. For example, creative achievement in applied/technological domains predicted a preference for applied/technological creativity in a potential mate.
Creative achievement in ornamental/aesthetic domains predicted a preference for ornamental/aesthetic creativity among females, and everyday/domestic creative achievement predicted a preference for ornamental/aesthetic creativity among males.”
If you’re not an “ornamental” creative type but want to broaden your appeal, take heart. Kaufman’s study suggests that spontaneous fun is highly prized by both sexes, and that’s a skill anyone can learn.