José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior, "Model's Rest" (1882) (via Wikimedia Commons)

José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior, “Model’s Rest” (1882) (via Wikimedia Commons)

Rejoice, liberal arts majors! Finally some good news for impractical creative types: they may be unemployable, but at least they’re sexy. According to a recent study conducted by psychologists Scott Barry Kaufman, James Kaufman, Gregory Feist, Aaron Kozbelt, Paul Silvia, and Sheela Ramesh, artistic creativity is more attractive to potential mates than practical creativity. In the study, entertainingly titled “Who Finds Bill Gates Sexy? Creative Mate Preferences as a Function of Cognitive Ability, Personality, and Creative Achievement,” 815 ethnically diverse participants were asked to rank 43 creative behaviors ranging from “painting a picture” to “making a website” according to which were most “sexually attractive in a potential mate.” Painting a picture was, by all accounts, much sexier.

The project was driven by evolutionary psychologist Gregory Feist’s work, which differentiates between what he calls the “applied/technological” creativity and “ornamental/aesthetic” creativity. The former is employed by the likes of engineers, computer scientists, and economists, while the latter is the province of visual artists, musicians, and creative writers. The Kaufmans and company found that both men and women tend to be more aroused by creativity of the ornamental/aesthetic sort. According to the survey, “making a clever remark,” “performing in a band,” and “taking artistic photographs” rank among the sexiest creative behaviors, while “presenting scientific or math papers” and “writing an original computer program” rank among the least sexy. My SAT scores stand vindicated.

Of course, as Scott Barry Kaufman is quick to admit in his article on the study in Scientific American, general trends aren’t universally applicable. Plenty of people still find mathematical, scientific, or other practical skills sexy, in large part because people tend to be attracted to other people with similar skill sets. In other words, “birds of a feather” sometimes trumps other considerations enough to overcome the sexual bias in favor of, for instance, art critics.

It’s also worth noting that Kaufman’s sample is disproportionately female and that studies attempting to quantify abstract notions like “creativity” are always somewhat suspect. But let’s hope this one has some currency — it makes it a good day to be an art blogger.

Becca Rothfeld is assistant literary editor of The New Republic and a contributor to The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Daily News’ literary blog, The Baffler, and Slate, among other publications....

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