Emotional Intelligence is the new sexy:
An investigation of heterosexual women’s attraction to men

Nick Hatter, & Silja Litvin

19th September 2019

Emotional intelligence, women, attraction, stereotypes, life coaching, psychotherapy

About the Authors

Nick Hatter, BSc (Hons) FCTC MAC is a therapeutic life coach and dating researcher based in London, UK. He is also FUSIONĀ® Certified Therapeutic Coach, and a Positive Psychology and Enneagram practitioner, qualified in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and has coached celebrities, psychologists, therapists as well as executives. Hatter is also a member coach of the Association for Coaching. For more information about his background, visit: www.nickhatter.com  

Silja Litvin, MSc Psych. is a psychologist, systemic therapist and mental health campaigner. She is also the founder of PsychApps which created eQuoo, a mobile game that trains emotional intelligence.


Common dating advice aimed at heterosexual men advises them that what women really want is an “alpha leader” - in other words, someone who is confident, ambitious, physically attractive and wealthy. This study investigates those claims and provides strong evidence against them by surveying a large sample of heterosexual women (N=1,068) on their attraction preferences when it comes to men’s intrinsic and extrinsic qualities.

Literature Overview

There are existing studies[1] which examine attraction between men and women, and the Big Five personality traits - also known as the Five Factor Model - which is comprised of five traits: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. However, such studies do not look at attraction in the context of stereotypical traits around heterosexual female attraction to males.

For example, there are a plethora of self-help resources[2][4][5][6][11] from books, blogs and websites aimed at heterosexual men advising them on how to be an “alpha male” (a man who displays characteristics of success, confidence, ambition and good problem solving abilities), as well as advising them that they must maximise their “survival and replication value” (S&R value), which in communities focused on seducing women[2], is defined as ‘the degree to which a man is able to contribute to a woman’s biological goals of survival (security) and replication (having good genes)’.

Clearly, the premise that seduction communities put forward is inspired by Darwinian evolutionary theory of “survival of the fittest” ie. only men demonstrating higher S&R value will have sexual and/or romantic relationships with women.

There are also studies which investigate the impact of perceptions of wealth and resources on heterosexual women’s attraction to men by having subjects assess attractiveness of men in photographs. Such studies have found that women are more attracted to men who appear wealthier. However, the limitations of such studies is that they do not take into consideration men’s character and intrinsic qualities - which are harder to convey in photographs alone.

As it stands, based on popular conceptions in dating and seduction advice available to men, as well as current body of psychology research, it stands that there is an overemphasis on men needing to be confident, ambitious, wealthy and physically attractive. In light of these assumptions, this study aims to challenge the status quo of what is deemed factual about heterosexual women’s attraction to men, as well as to determine the priority of attraction factors.


In light of the literature overview, it is hypothesised that:

  1. Heterosexual women will find the “alpha male traits” of confidence, ambitiousness and high intellect the most attractive.

  2. Heterosexual women will prioritise a man’s physical attractiveness over his intrinsic qualities when choosing a romantic partner.

  3. Heterosexual women will prioritise a man’s wealth and status over his intrinsic qualities when choosing a romantic partner.


A Google Form survey was set up which asked to choose their top five most attractive intrinsic qualities in order from a list of 12 positive characteristics[3]. These characteristics were selected as an amalgamation from various different sources dispensing dating advice to heterosexual men in seduction books[4], blogs[5] and communities[6]. Characteristics relating to alpha men were selected (humorous, confidence, ambitious, high intellect), as well as the characteristics of “beta males” - men who are considered by seduction communities as unattractive and subservient to women - which included caring, integrity and humility.

Characteristics such as Emotional Intelligence, Positivity and Owns and works on his weaknesses were also added as these are typically traits not typically listed by seduction communities as being desirable to women. Rather, the focus seems to be on confidence, social status and physical attractiveness. In addition, participants could also manually add characteristics which were not listed by selecting “other” and specifying what this other characteristic is.

Next, they were asked that when it comes to men’s physical attractiveness, to indicate whether men’s physical attractiveness is less, just as, or more important than their intrinsic qualities. Then they were asked when it comes to a man’s wealth and status whether a man's wealth and status is less, just as, or more important than their intrinsic qualities. The questions were structured this way so a broad comparison could be made easily to see if women preferred physical attractive and/or wealthy men. Of course, these qualities could have been added to the ranked characteristics.

Finally, women were asked to choose their top five most unattractive traits when it came to men’s intrinsic qualities from a list of 16 negative characteristics[7]. Participants could also manually add characteristics they found unattractive which were not listed. These were selected based on amalgamation of advice given to men about attractiveness from matchmaking services[8] and dating blogs[9]. Qualities that would be attributed to a beta male by seduction communities were selected, including insecurity, overly dependent, overly emotional and trying too hard to impress.

Attributes that may be more associated to pickup artists (those who use psychological and methodical methods with the aim of sleeping with a person) such as dishonesty were also selected. For instance, some pickup artists advocate the use of fabricated storytelling (known as “Demonstration of High Value routines”) and obfuscated intentions to build attraction. For instance, retired pickup artist Neil Strauss is credited for the quote, “it’s not lying; it’s flirting”[10].

Another characteristic associated with pickup artists and alpha males is arrogance. Authors in the seduction community believe that a man being “irrationally self-confident” will produce better results for his life compared to if he is meek and defeatist[11].

The survey was largely promoted via social media using both organic and paid online advertising on Twitter with an incentive for a chance to win a £50 shopping voucher if users shared the survey, with one-runner app receiving a one-week spa pass. The ads were targeted at women aged at least 21 years old and living in London using Twitter Ads’ demographic targeting.


1,080 participants took part in the survey, of which there were 1,068 valid responses.

Twitter reports that their gender targeting is more than 90% accurate based on a panel of human testers.[12] There was only one male who complained that he was seeing the ad despite not being a female, and another user who complained as she was homosexual who was seeing the promoted survey, and a couple of users who complained about gender-mistyped. A couple of users also complained that the survey was gender stereotyping.

Some were erroneous (no input) and some were “trolls” (malicious Internet users) who did not answer appropriately, such as the one user who answered “girth” for all of their answers and another who answered “good bum”. The survey asked about intrinsic character qualities and thus describing a quality relating to the size of male genitalia or the quality of their gluteus maximus is invalid, so these spurious ballots were struck off. One ballot was struck off because a user had answered “not having a penis” as an attractive trait which would imply they are not a heterosexual woman, thus disqualifying their ballot.

Voting Algorithm

There are a number of different ways in which the results could be interpreted. What is fundamental here is to take into account both number of votes as well as the preference order. Thus, the results were put into an Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) algorithm as this takes into account both.

After running the IRV algorithm, the top five most attractive and unattractive male intrinsic qualities were shortlisted.

Most attractive intrinsic male qualities:



Number of first IRV Votes at Round #8

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