Women often prefer the romantic company of "bad boys," while males prefer "good girls," new research reveals.

Emotional reactions and desires in the first romantic encounters between two people can often determine the future of their relationship. Researchers believe responsiveness is essential during initial contact and is necessary for two people to want to see each other again after an initial encounter.

Three studies were undertaken by researchers from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya in Israel, at the University of Illinois, and at the University of Rochester.

People in search of mates often say they want someone "responsive to their needs." This usually means a dating partner who supports the goals and dreams of a partner. Most people also want someone who will pique their sexual interest.

In the first experiment, investigators looked at whether subjects perceived responsiveness as a masculine or feminine trait. They also examined how attractive such a response was to subjects in the test. Men ranked highly-responsive women as more feminine and attractive than those who seemed less engaged. Females did not judge responsiveness to be either masculine or feminine, and found highly-responsive males to be slightly less attractive than others.

The second investigation asked volunteers to interact with responsive or unresponsive members of the opposite sex. Afterward, the pair communicated online, along with a photo of the other participant. One subject discussed a current problem in their life, while the other was directed to either be responsive, or not, to the subject's conundrum.

As in the first study, men sensed responsive females as more feminine and desirable than those who were unresponsive. Women tended to be more cautious than men about responsiveness from a stranger.

"Some women, for example, may interpret responsiveness negatively and feel uncomfortable about a new acquaintance who seems to want to be close. Such feelings may impair sexual attraction to this responsive stranger. Other women may perceive a responsive stranger as warm and caring and therefore as a desirable long-term partner," Gurit Birnbaum of the IDC said.

The role of responsiveness in triggering sexual desire in males was the subject of the third investigation. As in the other two studies, the responsive women were perceived as more feminine and desirable by males.

These three studies reinforce the idea that women who listen to a man's problems are seen as sexually attractive, while the same behavior by men is, at best, neutral in the eyes of women. Some females can perceive responsiveness as manipulative, possibly trying to gain sexual favors.

Investigations of the role of emotions in male/female couples was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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