SOME OF US, THIS WRITER INCLUDED, WASTED our early dating years trying to fit in with everyone else, and found that it did not get us very far in our romantic lives. We discovered, much later on, that simply being ourselves was the best way to be attractive to others.
Well, now we have science to confirm that fact: new studies show that neither men nor women prefer conformist partners. Matthew Hornsey, a psychologist based out of the University of Queensland in Australia, has conducted five studies that suggest that both men and women broadly find nonconformity to be more sexually attractive than conformity, even though women often assume that men prefer the opposite.
“Nonconformity is more attractive than conformity for women and men,” the researchers wrote, “People think that men prefer conformist women, but this impression is discrepant from reality.” They found this by conducting surveys of men and women which gave the participants a profile of hypothetical partners. Participants tended to prefer partners who were described as non-conformists (“She often does her own thing rather than fit in with the group”) than conformists (“She is quite happy to go along with what others are doing”).
Separate research suggests that this result holds across cultures as well: respondents in the US, UK, Australia, and India were more likely to feel romantic satisfaction if they had nonconformist personality traits.
The research also found that women tend to think men are more attracted to conformity than they actually are, a fact which the researchers attributed to an earlier culture where women were expected to be subordinate to men. But it’s not the case.
So: to all awkward high schoolers, and to all single people: stop trying to be like everyone else and start trying to be yourself. That’s what’s really sexy. And it isn’t just your mom saying that: it’s science.