Ever catch your partner checking out an attractive stranger on the street? Ever notice all of the good-looking opposite-sex friends your partner has accumulated on Facebook? Such things might seem harmless, but these “beautiful” people may actually make us less appealing to our partners, due to what researchers refer to as contrast effects. Contrast effects occur when something looks better or worse depending on what we compare to it. In this case, you could look less attractive to your partner when compared to someone else that is more attractive, whether that person is a sexy passerby, a good-looking co-worker, or even someone featured in erotic material. (Read more about contrast effects here.)
Entries in attraction (81)
We often regard a kiss as a way to show affection or to create a spark. An international survey of over 900 males and females aged 18-63 found that kissing serves a greater purpose and is more than a way to increase arousal. Instead, it’s an important way to assess a partner’s quality, especially for women and for those who rate themselves as highly attractive. Those who more easily separate sex from love (i.e., high sociosexuality) rated kissing as more important early in a relationship and experienced more change in attraction (less attraction toward a partner who was initially attractive post-kiss).
Check out our other articles about kissing here.
Wlodarski, R. & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2013). Examining the possible functions of kissing in romantic relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0190-1
You might remember the 1994 movie Speed, where the characters portrayed by Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock have to drive a passenger-filled bus over 50mph through downtown Los Angeles to prevent a bomb from exploding and killing them all. Of course, they accomplish this terrifying feat, and by the end of the movie they have fallen in love. (If you haven't seen the movie, you can watch the 2 minute version here or think about the Fast & Furious franchise instead.)
The movie’s basic premise may be the stuff of wild Hollywood imaginations. But what about the idea that driving fast and near-death experiences can lead to attraction between two strangers? This probably seems pretty far-flung, but in fact, the producers of Speed got this part right.
If your relationship doesn't have chemistry or has lost it's spark, check out this post on rekindling the romance.
Image Source: George Takei's Facebook
What happens when something is only available for a short period of time or exists in limited quantities? We want it. Badly. That’s why advertisements and infomercials are always telling you to “act now, before time runs out” if you want to get your hands on the latest, overpriced, completely unnecessary product they’re selling. However, the illusion of scarcity and its effects are not unique to the world of business—scarcity may also affect how we perceive potential sexual and romantic partners. As some evidence of this, consider a classic study on the so-called “closing time effect,” or the idea that everyone gets better looking when the bar is about to close because the window of opportunity for finding someone to take home dwindles.
People often think that successful people are attractive. But what about their less successful counterparts? Are they destined to be seen as less attractive? In a study involving hypothetical job applicants, those candidates described as being “underdogs” -- i.e., they were unlikely to get a particular job due to unfair circumstances beyond their control (e.g., their application had been misplaced by a secretary) -- were rated as especially physically attractive and desirable to date compared to candidates who were (a) unfairly advantaged (i.e., had a friend pressuring the employer to hire them) or (b) were unlikely to get the job due to their own incompetence (i.e., they failed to follow directions on the job application). That’s right…being an underdog can be hot if your failures are not your own fault.
Men’s fascination with women’s butts and breasts is well known. They will often debate the qualities of each feature when together in a locker room or at a bar. But did you know there is actually empirical research on whether men prefer booty or boobs?
In a series of studies, researchers at the University of Buenos Aires recently looked at heterosexual men’s preferences for women’s breasts or women’s butts.
Should men go for the clean-shaven look, a full beard, or somewhere in between when trying to attract a woman,? To answer this question, researchers showed heterosexual women and heterosexual men photographs of men with full beards, heavy stubble, light stubble, or cleanly shaven faces. Importantly, the pictures were the same men but with different facial hair styles. Women found heavy stubble more attractive than the other styles. Interestingly, men thought full beards and clean-shaven were more attractive than women did. A follow-up study focusing on fertility indicated that women’s preference for heavy stubble was the same regardless of menstrual cycle phase.
For more facial hair science, check out this article.
Dixson, B. J., & Brooks, R. C. (2013). The role of facial hair in women's perceptions of men's attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities. Evolution and Human Behavior, doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.02.003
Master manipulators know that the way to get people to part with their money is to create an illusion of scarcity. In other words, if you want people clamoring for whatever it is you’re selling, tell people they can’t have it (“Act now! Quantities are limited!”). Next thing you know, they’ll be lining up to pay you even more than you were originally asking! So does the same thing work when it comes to finding a date? Can you enhance your desirability by making yourself less available? A new set of studies suggests that you can.
Is it okay for people to be attracted to others while in a committed relationship? Is it normal? Someone told me "if you're in a relationship and attracted to someone else, then there is something missing in your relationship and you shouldn't be committed in the first place." Is that true? I've always thought that attraction is normal and unavoidable, and crushes are harmless if not acted on. So, is it normal to have a crush on someone who isn't your significant other?
A: Your question raises several different issues worth considering, so let’s take them one at a time:
1) Is being “attracted to others while in a committed relationship… normal and unavoidable?”
Actually, yes, there is reason to think that being attracted to others is unavoidable. When we look at another person our brain very quickly processes the visual information our eyes see, and we nearly instantaneously make a judgment concerning the other person’s attractiveness.
Chad Michael Murray, the actor from One Tree Hill, once said, “To all the girls out there who think being funny is not sexy, you are wrong!” Not only has a point, but there is some research to back him up. Two guys walk into a bar… and according to research, whomever women consider funnier will also be seen as more attractive and suitable for a long-term relationship.1 Having a funny partner may simply make them more fun to be around, but it is also possible that a good sense of humor indicates that a person has advanced language skills, creativity, abstract thinking, and intelligence.2 Put another way, a quick wit may signal the quality of a potential partner’s genetic make-up, which can lead that person to appear more attractive. Then again, maybe attractive people are more likely to be naturally funny, or are more likely to be perceived by others as funny. Recent research delves deeper into these issues to answer two key questions: Is being funny more attractive for short-term or long-term relationships? Does physical attractiveness influence ratings of funniness?
Some say that knowledge is power. Although knowledge in skills such as physics, literature, history, or foreign languages can help you look smart and win on Jeopardy (speaking of which, do you want to hear me talk about history in Russian?), it is less clear whether having knowledge of other people can help you “win” in social situations. In other words, can knowledge about another person lead you to like this person more? Social psychological research has evidence that familiarity may lead to either more and less liking, depending on the context.
At the stage of my life right now, I feel like I should be able to have a grasp of this, but I still don't. I am 27, male, and I've never had a serious relationship. The plain and simple reason is because I don't know how. During high school the girlfriends that I had were always more aggressive in getting what they wanted (me), so I never truly learned how to go for a woman. As I grew older, it seemed to me that the women expect the men to do most if not all of the work when it comes to intimacy. The steps from introduction to actual physical intimacy are very unclear to me; it's like figuring out the meaning of life (yes, it's that much of a mystery to me).
Men are dumber around women. Thijs Verwijmeren, Vera Rommeswinkel and Johan C. Karremans gave men cognitive tests after they had interacted with a woman via computer. In the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the male cognitive performance declined after the interaction, or even after the men merely anticipated an interaction with a woman.
This passage comes from a piece by David Brooks on the New York Times website. We're always glad to see relationship science making it's way into the popular press. But, unfortunately, Brooks doesn't provide readers with much information about the research itself. Lucky for you, we do. Check out our coverage of this study here.
A pirate walks into a bar with a steering wheel in his pants. The bartender looks at him, and says: “Hey buddy, that looks pretty uncomfortable.” The pirate says: “Arrrrrrrrr, it’s driving me nuts.” I have a feeling you find this joke very funny. As a consequence, you probably like me a lot at this point (unless I’m the only one who finds this joke funny).
You don’t need a scientist to inform you that we all love to laugh. Humor is a social phenomenon; some researchers have estimated that we laugh about 18 times a day, mostly in the company of others. It should come as no surprise then that we like those who make us laugh. Research routinely shows that both men and women want a partner who has a good sense of humor.
I recently read an article entitled "OkCupid Experiment Proves Men Don’t Mind Dating Sociopaths." Naturally, I was intrigued. The article goes on to report the results of an “experiment” in which a couple of friends created a fake OkCupid profile featuring an image of an attractive woman (“Tara_IceAge4”) whose profile appeared, well, a little on the crazy side. Read the full article if you want all of the gory details, but the basic idea is that she’s racist, insensitive (e.g., she makes jokes about 9/11), erratic, a hit-and-run driver, and, above all else, a really poor speller. This fake profile was viewed 400 times and received 39 replies from potential male suitors within a few hours. So does this little study “prove” that men are perfectly comfortable dating sociopaths? And, in the words of the article’s author, is this really “an experiment that every human being should examine?” No and no. Let me explain.
A co-worker of mine recently asked me if she could set me up with a guy in another department at my university. Since my divorce about 2 years ago, I have only started dating again the last few months, but I have not told her much about my personal life. Although I like one man I have recently started dating a lot (The Consultant), I did not want to tell my co-worker about him quite yet. I am sure her intentions to set me up with a colleague are good, but I tend to shy away from workplace set-ups due to the complications that can arise.