Science May Have Just Explained Why Hot Guys Are Douchebags


There's something distinctive about how an attractive man carries himself among his peers — let's call it the "I'm hot, you're not" attitude. A paper published in Evolutionary Psychology suggests that the insufferable confidence of good-looking men may not be (entirely) their fault.

"The study didn't just show that men with more attractive bodies have behavior and attitudes that are less altruistic or egalitarian; it also showed that men (and women) with more attractive bodies are perceived by other people as being less altruistic or egalitarian," co-author Michael Price, a psychology professor at Brunel University in London, told Mic.

"Our results shine a pretty bright light on the under-appreciated role that physical attractiveness may play as a predictor of egalitarianism," the team at Brunel University in London wrote.

According to the paper, there is little motivation for an attractive male to obey social norms and treat others as "social equals." And, let's face it, who has time to worry about being fair when the competition to remain Mr. Popular can determine everything from career accomplishment to romantic success.

To borrow from Animal Farm: "All men are created equal, but some men — the attractive ones — are more equal than others."

Mark Baker/AP

The science: Price said that as a hyper-social species, we seek social recognition, popularity and status. We want to be valued by others. People who are more attractive have to do less, in terms of altruistic sharing, in order to make themselves valuable to other people. That's because they're already highly valued by others (as friends, mates, etc.), by virtue of their high attractiveness. If you're less attractive, then you're more likely to have to make yourself valuable to other people by being altruistic and sharing your resources. That is, you have a greater need to get people to like you because you have something to offer them in terms of your altruism, even if you don't have as much to offer them in terms of your attractiveness.

More importantly, Price said that because attractive people are relatively likely to win all kinds of social competitions (for friends, mates, status, resources, etc.), they're more likely to be on the winning side of inequality. That is, they're more likely to benefit from inequality. So they're more likely to approve of inequality, feel like it's OK for there to be winners and losers in society and less likely to have strongly egalitarian values.

You are a product of your genes. For the study, the team wanted to see if this way of thinking might be passed down on to the men of today, from the Ryan Goslings to the office hottie. Their hunch was that if men of the past thought being attractive made them more important than their peers, chances are that men of today have inherited the same "psychological mechanisms" or mindset.

The team recruited 125 men and women and created 3-D body models of them so that they could measure their body features (like height, weight, and waist-to-hip ratio). Then they had the participants rate the "attractiveness" of the body models and also, how fair-minded that person might be.

To get a good gauge on how egalitarian a participant actually was, the researchers made everyone take a set of tests to determine how they would share money, how sensitive they were to the idea of equality and one that measured their political leaning (socialism vs. capitalism).

Some genes never change. The researchers found that on average, women appeared to be more egalitarian than men. As they suspected, men who were observed as more egalitarian tended not to be the ones who were also the most attractive.

The way we think might be wired according to patterns of the past. And, if this is the case, that means the key to understanding age-old questions, for instance, why attractive men seem so entitled, may be hidden in our evolutionary history.

The researchers caution that for now, they still have more work to do before they can make any strong conclusions. 

"The correlation we found between attractiveness and selfishness attitudes in men was nowhere close to being perfect," Price said. "Therefore, we should not be surprised if we encounter many men who are very unattractive and very selfish, as well as many men who are very attractive and very altruistic and egalitarian."

Bodily attractiveness could be related to egalitarianism in men not just because having a more attractive body causes men to be less egalitarian, but because being less egalitarian also causes men to invest more time in their own physical condition (for instance, exercise).

"By drawing attention to this bias we can make people more able to overcome it. I think it is important to be aware of the biases people have that can influence their moral and political attitudes," said Price. "Awareness of these biases can help people decide to be more rational in their moral or political views."

For now, the boorish behavior of some attractive men may be excusable. There's a chance that along with all those wonderful genes, the bad attitude came as a byproduct.