Has this ever happened to you? You're out with your single friends and they point out an attractive man who’s just walked by, and your reaction is just, well... ‘Meh?’
Yep, well, that would be down to the fact that you're all loved up and settled down.
In a new study published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, researchers have revealed that people in long-term relationships automatically downplay the attractiveness of people they cross paths with throughout the day.
The study conductors from Rutgers and New York Universities believe that our mind tricks us into not noticing the people our single selves would be drawn to, in a bid to keep partners from being tempted into cheating.
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To assess the perceptual bias, psychologists Dr. Shana Cole, Dr. Yaacov Trope and Dr. Emily Balcetis showed heterosexual participants pictures of opposite sex lab partners alongside some basic info on them, including their romantic status.
They were then told to match the individual's photo with one of several other pictures that had been altered to make some more attractive than the original photo, and some less attractive.
Of 131 people that took part, those in relationships deemed single people (aka a potential threat) as less attractive as they would conventionally be considered, matching the original info with the less attractive pictures.
On the flip side, both single people and loved-up participants found individuals in a relationship better-looking.
Isn’t life just odd like that?
Commenting on the results, Dr Cole said:
"Misperceiving attractive people who represent threats to the relationship as less attractive may help people resist the inclination to pursue them.
"This is especially important since finding someone physically attractive is a primary reason why people choose to date or romantically pursue someone."
Researchers then repeated the study on a new sample, this time asking involved people how satisfied they were with their relationship before getting started.
Unsurprisingly, for those happy folk out there, the results were pretty much the same – singletons dropped on the hotness scale to them.
But for those who were less into their current romantic status, their responses to the study more closely reflected single people: they had a more accurate assessment of the attractiveness of the opposite sex.
Dr Balcetis commented: "In today's world, it can be difficult to stick it out with one long-term partner.
"This work suggests that there are processes that may take place outside of conscious awareness to make it easier to stay committed to one's own partner."
Can you appreciate other people's attractiveness when you're in a relationship?
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