A new study in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion reports a significant gender difference in the sexual attractiveness of smiles.

In a series of studies, more than 1,000 adult participants rated the sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex engaged in universal displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads, averted eyes).

The study found that women were least attracted to smiling, happy men. In contrast, male participants were most sexually attracted to women who looked happy, and least attracted to women who appeared proud and confident.

The results seem to reinforce old stereotypes. Women really do prefer the “strong, silent type.”

Surprisingly, displays of shame were attractive to both sexes. Shame conveys social awareness and “appeasement behavior,” indicating a potential partner’s trustworthiness and desire to be accepted.

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