Explained: Why moral outrage and social activism are now considered highly attractive

  • 24/11/2021

You might think it's someone's appearance or sense of humour that makes them attractive to potential mates, but a study has found women are particularly keen on men who demonstrate moral outrage and practice social activism. 

"It has been found that those traits are particularly attractive to women looking for long-term partners," registered clinical psychologist Dr Aileen Alegado said on The AM Show.

"Both sexes, men and women, find them attractive; but it's significantly more so for women."

The study, which was published in the journal Emotion, found not only does one have to express moral outrage to be attractive - they have to also take action to address the issue rather than just talk about it. 

Dr Alegado says modern women are becoming more discerning about what they want in a mate, although some things never change.

"As time changes, some of these traditional biases change as well. However, internally I think women, in terms of feminine traits and masculine traits, overall they are stable and stay the same," she said.

"Traditionally we'd like to think this attraction is linked to our primal instincts of looking for a mate that is going to protect us and who shows prosocial behaviours and trustworthiness. What this study has shown is that not only does a potential mate have to have the moral outrage, but they need to be seen following up on some of the things that they have causes for."

People may have specific, stereotypical ideas in mind when they hear the terms 'moral outrage' and 'social activism'. However, what one finds attractive in a potential mate is their sharing of feeling strongly about the same things, wherever they are on the political or cultural spectrums.

"This study didn't explicitly state which causes people were activists for, it really just comes down to compatibility," said Dr Alegado.

"If you're into sports and you're an activist in that area, it's about finding a mate into the same things. The bottom line is it's about values alignment - finding somebody who has the same ideas and values as you do, because long-term in a relationship that is going to fare well."

So if you have your eye on someone special, it might pay to find out what causes they feel strongly about to see if you're aligned, and don't hold back in expressing moral outrage and taking action on the things that matter to you.

Doing that means you're scientifically in with a good shot at a long-term relationship with them, at least according to this study.