J Driebe, M Sidari, M Dufner, J von der Heiden, P Bürkner, L Penke, B Zietsch and R Arslan

Intelligence can be detected but is not found attractive in videos and live interactions

Evolution and Human Behavior

Humans’ extraordinary intelligence seems to extend beyond the needs for survival. One theory to explain this surplus intelligence is that it evolved via sexual selection as a fitness indicator to advertise genetic quality to prospective mates. Consistent with this idea, self-reported mate preferences suggest intelligence is valued across cultures. Yet, as the validity of these self-reports has been questioned, it remains unclear whether objectively assessed intelligence is indeed attractive. We analysed data from two studies to test this key premise of the sexual selection theory of intelligence. In Study 1, 88 target men had their intelligence measured and based on short video clips were rated on intelligence, funniness, physical attractiveness and mate appeal by 179 women. In Study 2 (N = 729), participants took part in 2 to 5 speed-dating sessions in which their intelligence was measured and they rated each other’s intelligence, funniness, and mate appeal. Measured intelligence did not predict increased mate appeal in either study, whereas perceived intelligence and funniness did. More intelligent people were perceived as more intelligent, but not as funnier. Results suggest that intelligence is not important for initial attraction, which raises doubts concerning the sexual selection theory of intelligence.

The preregistration is available on https://osf.io/rs3tg/. The preprint is available on https://psyarxiv.com/qv3eh/. The open analyses code is available on https://osf.io/q7sw5/.