Take a look at a bunch of women’s OkCupid profiles and you’ll be hard pressed to find one that says, “I’m looking for a guy who makes me laugh, loves trying new foods, and – oh! knows how to spin a mean yarn.”
And yet new research suggests that storytelling prowess is a desirable quality in a guy – possibly because it signals that they’re high-status. Men, on the other hand, don’t seem to be fazed by women’s ability to tell a good tale.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and SUNY Buffalo came to these conclusions after conducting a series of studies with hundreds of male and female undergrads as participants.
In one study, undergrads read descriptions of men and women, some of which specified that the man or woman tells great stories. Results showed that women found men who were good storytellers more attractive as long-term partners than men who were only decent storytellers, or men whose bios didn’t mention storytelling ability at all.
Men, on the other hand, didn’t rate women more attractive when those women were described as good storytellers.
The researchers also asked the participants to indicate whether they thought the man or woman would be popular, admired, and a good leader. Answers to these questions indicated how high-status the person seemed.
Sure enough, men who were supposedly good storytellers were perceived by women as higher status. Again, though, women who were supposedly good storytellers were not perceived by men as more attractive or of higher status.
At this point, it’s hard to say for sure why women are drawn to men who can tell a good story. The authors suggest that “storytelling ability reflects a man’s ability to gain resources. Good storytellers may be more likely to influence others or to gain positions of authority in society.”
Previous research has found that women prefer high-status guys, so this isn’t especially surprising – what’s new is the idea that storytelling ability is an indicator of status.
Of course, future research is necessary to see if watching and listening to a man tell a story is as appealing as reading a story he’s written.
Yet this study adds to a growing body of research on the nonphysical characteristics that can make men attractive to women, like mindfulness and altruism. In some cases, these attributes seem to be even more important than a man’s looks.
Bottom line: Women might not explicitly reveal that they’re looking for a guy who can tell a good story – in fact, they might not even realize that’s what they want. But if you want to impress a woman, consider ditching the pickup lines and starting with “Once upon a time …” instead.