Tempted to cheat on your other half? You might think it’s love that stops you, but scientists have found there’s a far less romantic explanation.
Researchers from Rutgers and New York University believe the secret to a happy relationship has less to do with loyalty and more to do with finding other people less attractive.
Scientists have discovered a sort of ‘turn off’ mechanism that coupled-up bods use to downgrade the attractiveness of others, so they perceive them to be less good looking than they really are in a phenomenon known as “perceptual downgrading.”
“People in monogamous relationships can experience a conflict when they interact with an attractive individual,” researchers said in a summary of the study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
“They may have a desire to romantically pursue the new person, while wanting to be faithful to their partner. We suggest that one way people defend their relationships against attractive individuals is by perceiving the individual as less attractive.”
To test their theory psychologists showed heterosexual participants pictures of opposite sex lab partners alongside some basic info on them, including their current 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 the 131 people that took part, those in relationships deemed single people (otherwise known as a potential threat) as less attractive as they would conventionally be considered. The effect was exacerbated among participants who were highly satisfied with their current relationships.
And possibly in a case of always wanting what you can’t have, both single people and loved-up participants found individuals in a relationship better looking.
“When people encounter an enticing temptation, one way to reduce its motivational pull is to devalue the temptation,” says Shana Cole, lead author of the study. “Committed individuals see other potential partners as less attractive than other people see them, especially if they see the attractive person as a threat to their relationship, and even more so if they’re happy with their partner.”
So if it’s all hearts and flowers in your love life, Ryan Gosling could try and chat you up and you still wouldn’t think he was a hottie. Imagine!
Isn’t science strange?