Researchers come up with new definition of 'cool'

What does it mean to be cool these days? Is it still the James Dean-like bad boy who flouts the law? What about the impenetrable colleague at work who oozes mystery and intrigue, or the fearless thrill-seeking adventurer friend? According to a team of psychologists, today's definition of cool is less about being a rebel without a cause, and more about being friendly and warm.

That's the conclusion of a new study which set out to find the contemporary definition of ‘cool,' a concept traditionally associated with characteristics like emotional control, rebelliousness, toughness and detachment.

Think the likes of James Dean or Miles Davis, researchers say.

But after analyzing the survey results of 1,000 participants from the Vancouver area, researchers from the University of Rochester found that respondents judged a person's ‘cool' factor by traits like likeability, friendliness, attractiveness, confidence, and success. The study was published in the Journal of Individual Differences

"If anything, sociability is considered to be cool, being nice is considered to be cool," said lead author Ilan Dar-Nimrod in a statement.

For their study -- described as the first systematic, quantitative approach to understanding what makes up a ‘cool personality' -- researchers organized results into three areas. In the first, respondents generated characteristics they perceived to be cool. In the second, participants rated dozens of traits on coolness and social desirability, while for the third, respondents rated their own friends.

The most popular adjectives to come up focused on positive, socially desirable traits like friendliness, competence, trendiness and attractiveness.

Meanwhile, in a nod to the old adage beauty is more than skin deep, another study found that both men and women who exhibited positive traits like honesty and helpfulness are perceived to be better looking compared to those who were rude.