London - You might assume that looking like Brad Pitt would be a sure-fire way to win the ladies, but selflessness trumps good looks when it comes to attracting women, according to a study.
Researchers from the University of Worcester and University of Sunderland asked 202 women to look at 12 sets of photographs.
Each set showed the faces of two men – one handsome, the other much less so.
These were shown alongside descriptions of them behaving either altruistically, or not, in different scenarios.
One such situation was seeing a homeless person on the street and buying them a sandwich, or pretending to be engrossed in a conversation on their phone and walking straight past them. Other descriptions were of neutral situations.
'Altruism has an important role in human mate choice,' the researchers wrote in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.
'Men who were just altruistic were rated more desirable than men who were just attractive, especially for long-term relationships.
'If a man possesses only one of those traits, it is altruism that is more valuable,' they added.
However, if a man was both attractive and altruistic, his desirability shot through the roof, the researchers found.
Altruism interacted with physical attractiveness 'such that being both attractive and altruistic made a man more desirable than just the sum of the two desirable parts', they said.
Although the researchers were not investigating why altruism is attractive, they noted that previous studies had suggested such behaviours signalled that the person would make a good parent.
The new study fits with a previous piece of research published by the University of Cologne last year which also found that being selfless can predict your chances of being romantically successful.
The academics, who used data from a population survey following thousands of people since 1984, found that, among single individuals, 'engaging in prosocial behaviour in any given year was associated with increased odds of finding a partner and entering into a romantic relationship in the following year'.
'The effect persisted even after accounting for individual differences in the Big Five personality traits (extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness) and the degree of social involvement,' the researchers said.