British psychological society conference: Tall, solvent and caring: Babes only need apply

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It is no longer enough to be an attractive professional with a GSOH. Males who place lonely hearts ads are now coming across as new men in order to attract a mate.

A study of more than 2,000 personal advertisements from local and national newspapers found that the qualities of being loving and giving - as well as having wads of cash - were seen as the best way to win a woman's heart.

Mark Mason of Nene College, Northampton, told the British Psychological Society annual conference in Edinburgh that personal ads were becoming increasingly common as our lives become "more busy, more fragmented and more traditional ways of meeting people [become] less common."

While heterosexual men still mentioned that their charm lay in their bank balance, Mr Mason said they were increasingly including caring qualities in their lonely hearts ads.

"There are two possible explanations," he said. "It could be that men are changing into new men and are less shy of advertising their expressive qualities. Or it could be simply an attempt to gain more replies. In my opinion, I would not be surprised [if this was the case]."

Women emphasised their good looks rather than financial status as well as "traditional feminine qualities" of caring and understanding. But Mr Mason warned that placing undue emphasis on physical charms "may be seen as superficial and might not generate replies from men seeking home-building qualities." Both sexes used the word "genuine" most frequently. Gay men, in comparison, tended to emphasise their independence and their physical attributes. Lesbians wanted caring partners, placing less stress on physical attractiveness.

But despite the new sensitivity, some stereotypes were found very pervasive. Women still wanted older rich men. And men still look for younger women and "a lot of men did ask for blondes". No man asked for a financially independent woman.

On Mr Mason's terms, ideal advertisements might read: "Caring, handsome millionaire, 35, would like to meet genuine younger woman interested in home building." Or "Beautiful shapely twenty-something babe, seeks old rich man to prove blondes have more fun."

Suzanne Moore, page 23