Entries in contrast effect (4)


Conquering Contrast Effects: The Strong Survive and the Weak Shall Perish 

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.) 

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Pondering the “What If” Relationship

About 10 years ago I had a short-lived, whirlwind romance with a man who was taking a long break from a complicated relationship with another woman. Once things got emotionally intimate with me, he bolted back to her and they eventually married. I was devastated. Despite my initial grief, we remain a presence in each other’s lives. Although we have transitioned to being only friends, there has always been a flirtatious quality to our interactions. I refer to him as The Question Mark because I have always had the “what if” question haunting me about him. What if he had been more available when we first started dating? What if our career paths were not so different? What would happen if we lived in the same city today, now that we are both single again?

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The Contrast Effect and Beautiful Girls: There is Harm in Only Looking!

It’s summer again, and that means warm weather, beach vacations, and the dreaded bathing suit! Growing up on the coast, I figured I’d eventually get used to the summertime show-and-tell of swimsuit season. Unfortunately, I was wrong. 

Just recently, I was at the beach with my family and we were looking for a place to plant our chairs. One male member quickly picked the perfect spot.  It did not occur to me until I sat down that what made this such a prime location was its proximity to some college-aged, scantily-clad, bathing beauties. It would have been awesome if I had not noticed, or if I had just been happy for those young girls and resisted the urge to compare myself. Regrettably, that was not the case. 

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Hall Pass: She's Hot...Well, Maybe Not


This isn't just a movie preview, it is also a great example of relationship science. In the trailer for the new movie Hall Pass, the guys are out at a club when they see a seemingly attractive woman (@2:14 in the clip). Jason Sudeikis’ character Fred gestures to a group of women and says “tall blonde, right here.” Another guy then points out “she surrounds herself with less attractive women to make her look like a 10.” This same guy goes on to demonstrate this idea by putting his hands up to frame the whole group, “hot…” Next, he moves his hands so that you can’t see the blonde’s friends and says “not…” as you see the woman get visibly less attractive. Fred: “that’s amazing, you’re like a Beautiful Mind.”

This is a fantastic example of the contrast effect.

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