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Are you sapiosexual? The people who are only attracted to intelligence

When you're single and dating isn't going so well for you, you get used to hearing the same old sayings over and over again; especially if you're insecure about your appearance. "Looks aren't everything", they say. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's what's inside that counts." Oh sure, it's nice to think that physical appearances aren't the be-all and end-all. But I imagine that the vast majority of people (myself included) are too shallow to look below the surface. First impressions really count, and a good first impression is always aided by straight white teeth and a toned body.

But what if I told you that for some people, appearance is entirely immaterial and that the nerdier you are, the more appealing you become? For these people, apparently, brainy is the new sexy, because if you identify as "sapiosexual" then it means that you're attracted to intelligence in a partner above all other qualities: such as looks, charm or the size of their wallet. Is this romantic phenomenon really true? Or is this just a pipe-dream of heartbroken eggheads the world over?

A couple playing chess outside. Credit: Pexels

The term doesn't appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, despite how many people on Tinder might want to identify as sapiosexual for the sake of making their profile look good. The question is: Is there any concrete scientific evidence that some people are turned on only by the mind?

A new study, published in the journal Intelligence, apparently supports the idea that people can be sexually aroused purely through intellectualism. The study, entitled "Some people are attracted sexually to intelligence: A psychometric evaluation of sapiosexuality", attempted to investigate the science behind an attraction to cleverness. Gilles Gignac, a senior lecturer from the University of Western Australia, surveyed 383 of his students with questions such as whether or not they thought high intelligence was attractive or not, as well as questions about what constituted intelligence to them and what qualities they looked for in a love interest. The results showed that the participants were mostly attracted to those individuals who exhibited high IQ scores. However, the people who were more intelligent than the 99th percentile were viewed as slightly less desirable. There's a particular sweet spot for braininess that appears around the 90th percentile.

Gignac writes that: "We found that sapiosexuality can be measured psychometrically and that between one per cent and eight per cent of relatively young people (aged between 18 and 35) might be sapiosexuals, However, interestingly, how intelligent a person is (measured with an actual IQ test) does not appear to predict the degree to which people identify themselves as a sapiosexual."

Despite these findings, however, it should be noted that this study is not conclusive, and doesn't appear to prove that some people are only attracted to intelligence; only that it is considered to be an extremely important quality in a potential mate (on average the 383 participants listed intelligence as the second-most important trait, just behind kindness and understanding). Besides, maybe this test has only managed to prove that people want to be perceived as valuing intelligence. It still doesn't prove that intelligence in isolation can excite us sexually.

A couple with wine, cheese and grapes. Credit: Stocksnap

What do the experts think about all of this? Writing for Psychology Today, Dr Diana Rabb states: "Those who admit to being sapiosexual will say that they are turned on by the brain, and tend to be teased or excited by the insights of another person. This means the person who you are attracted to might have a tendency to have an incisive, inquisitive, and an irreverent mind. As foreplay, the sapiosexual person may crave philosophical, political or psychological discussions, because this turns them on ... This intellectual synergy simply fires up the relationship. This is often seen in the workplace and may be viewed as another aspect of being sapiosexual—that is, a desire to be connected with intellectuals."

So according to Rabb, sapiosexuality isn't just an attraction to intelligence, because a person's intellectual abilities can affect a whole host of other traits: how organised they are, their career prospects, their communicative skills and deductive reasoning, and their sense of empathy and emotional intelligence. Plus, intelligence has to be thought of as a vital evolutionary trait; the more intelligent a person is, the better equipped they are to adapt and survive deadly situations, and thus pass their intelligent genes onto the next generation. In reproductive terms, being sapiosexual is a case of hedging your bets.

It's even been proven by researchers from the University of Mexico City back in 2009. These scientists tested the sperm of 400 men, afterwards making them sit through a number of puzzling mental exercises. The gentlemen who boasted high IQs turned out to have a much higher overall sperm count. Speaking purely in evolutionary terms, it could be that, subconsciously, people are attracted to intelligence because it promotes strong fertility.

A lightbulb inside a chalk-drawn thought balloon. Credit: Pexels

So, how can you tell whether or not you are a nymphobrainiac? Well, a sapiosexual person might tend to take a little longer to find themselves attracted to someone. It might take a few conversations - and not small talk either - before they find someone sexy. They're impressed by any display of expertise, keen to learn new things and to discover new experiences with their partner. They're turned off by ditziness and ignorance and seek forms of art and entertainment that challenge them. They'd rather discuss topics that interest them at length and aren't afraid of debate and argument. They will value sex which is intimate and empathic, and won't rush into things straight away.

Does this sound like you? Then you might well be a latent sapiosexual. But that's not the only preference out there. For instance, find out why these 13 men prefer dating older women.