Is Smart the New Sexy?
The ins and outs of what makes a person attractive is a topic that virtually everyone has spent a great deal of time thinking about – it would be safe to say that it only stops being at the forefront of the average person’s mind after that person has finally decided to settle down and withdraw from the dating scene. Countless psychologists have attempted to get to the bottom of this issue and even more dating experts and gurus have tried to take advantage of the average person’s inborn desire to be perceived as attractive and worthy of affection. Many traits which are considered universally desirable when one is searching for a romantic partner are self-evident and easy to guess, but a new theory has appeared in recent times and this notion puts forward the idea that a person’s intellect is the defining characteristic when it comes to determining the level of attractiveness one possesses. This belief has been dubbed sapiosexuality and it will be our topic of the day.
The Classical Factors of Attractiveness
Before we can fully delve into the idea of sapiosexuality, we must first address the already well-established factors which undoubtedly play a role in any courtship, or we would not be doing justice to this sometimes unfathomable process which has caused so many sleepless nights and broken hearts throughout all ages of human history. We’ll start with physical appearance, and if you happen to require proof of its importance, you need to look no further than the fitness and cosmetic industries, two juggernauts of the business world which were created solely to cater to this facet of human interest.
While it would be tempting to claim that only vain people place much emphasis on good looks, the inescapable fact is that humans are visual beings and beauty will always play some part in our romantic pursuits. If nothing else, that’s the only thing we have to go on before we actually get to know someone, and the importance of first impressions cannot be overstated. A survey(1) conducted in the UK had 2,000 participants (equally split between male and female) answer what was the first thing they noticed about the members of the opposite sex, and both men and women placed eyes in the first place and a nice smile in the second. Therefore, even though people who identify as sapiosexual may claim that the brain is the most attractive part of the body, we cannot disregard the importance of physical appearance.
Another study (2) found that very large percentages of both men and women thought of good looks and a steady income as traits which were “desirable/essential” in a potential long-term partner. This financial aspect may be a bit controversial, but it is actually a biological imperative as it is very difficult to fully commit to a relationship if even the most basic of necessities cannot be guaranteed. Lastly, we do not need any studies to provide one more example of these classical factors, because common knowledge dictates that shared interests are a must in any solid relationship.
What Is Sapiosexuality?
You could probably add a few more examples to the category we’ve discussed previously (sense of humor, for one), but the gist of it is that it was long believed that some combination of these well-known attributes would be the deciding factor when it came to choosing the object of one’s affection. However, a new theory has recently entered the fray, and the time has finally come for us to see what it’s all about.
The term sapiosexuality is what’s linguistically known as a neologism – a word which has been recently coined and is seeing common usage in certain contexts, but which is yet to be fully integrated into the mainstream language. The exact time of its creation cannot be pinpointed, but it was somewhere around the turn of the 21st century (3). It follows the same model as other terms in this area, and its root is the Latin word “sapien”, which means wise.
The Science behind Sapiosexuality
The theory that intelligence is the most attractive aspect of a person and the deciding factor when choosing a romantic partner may be new but it is not without scientific backing. A study (4) found that partners who spent less time on meaningless small talk and more time engaging in substantive conversations have reported increased sensations of well-being. And while it is true that high intelligence can manifest itself in many different forms, the ability to conduct profound conversations is without a doubt a hallmark of the intellectually gifted. If looked from this point of view, this study shows a direct correlation between advanced intellectual capabilities and long-term satisfaction in a relationship, proving there is definite merit to sapiosexuality.
Additionally, research conducted by Dutch psychologists(5) showed that single men who were intellectually gifted had a clear tendency to search for romantic partners who shared that characteristic and that they placed greater emphasis on intellectual attributes than on personality traits or the desire to have a family. Furthermore, they exhibited higher levels of self-esteem, an increased willingness to try new experiences, and a more positive disposition toward women with successful careers – all of which are qualities that bode well for a happy relationship and show why intellect might just be the thing to look for when it comes to picking the right partner.
There is strong evidence that intelligence can be an important element in deciding one’s ideal partner. While it may not be the only factor, as certain aspects of physical appearance are still the key when it comes to making first impressions, and other personality traits also play an important role, both science and common knowledge clearly indicate that intellect is hugely relevant for long-term happiness and satisfaction in a relationship, and perhaps the most relevant component of them all. Because of this, it’s no surprise that more and more people are identifying as sapiosexual and are looking for a romantic partner who can, first and foremost, fulfill their intellectual needs and desires.