Nice guys finish last?  Not so, says a new article published in Evolutionary Psychology.  The study shows, given the choice, women prefer a sweet guy over a handsome stud.

The study asked 202 women to rate photos of men for their attractiveness.  Photos were paired with written scenarios, describing either altruistic actions — like buying a sandwich for a homeless person or rescuing a child from a river — or actions that were neutral or demonstrated a lack of altruism, like ignoring that homeless person altogether.  Women rated the desirability of each hypothetical mate on a 1-to-5 scale for both short and long-term relationships. The study’s lead author, Daniel Farrelly, designed the study to understand trade-offs in mating selection.  Basically, if a woman had to chose, would she prefer good natured or good looking?

And the winner?  Definitely nice guys.  As Farrelly explained to Live Science:

“We found, in particular, that being altruistic is better than being attractive for long-term relationships.”

These results support other research on the desirability of altruism.  Especially when selecting for a long-term relationship, a nice guy might be more likely to be a supportive partner or a good father.

Not that physical attractiveness counts for nothing.  Being both good looking and altruistic had “a greater effect on a man’s desirability” than either trait on its own, the study concluded.  And as for a short-term relationship (read: fling), women actually preferred non-altruistic mates.  Possibly that “bad boy” image retains some appeal, even if it’s fleeting.

Farrelly’s study adds to a body of research aimed at understanding how altruism influences mating selection.  A number of studies have shown that people behave more altruistically when a potential mate is watching.  A recent study found that singles engaged in altruistic behavior were more likely to be in a romantic relationship within a year.

So guys, if you’re trying to pull your dream girl, skip the gym and hit up the soup kitchen instead.