Effect of relationship status on perceptions of physical attractiveness for alternative partners

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Whitney Elyse Petit (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://library.wcu.edu/
Thomas Ford

Abstract: Previous research has found that as people become increasingly involved with their partners, they evaluate alternatives more negatively. The present research tested two competing hypotheses that address the origin of this mechanism: (a) the motivational hypothesis suggests that devaluing alternatives is an effortful process where attractiveness is suppressed, and (b) the perceptual hypothesis suggests that devaluation is an automatic process where those in relationships simply find alternatives less attractive (e.g., Rusbult & Johnson, 1989; Simpson, Lerma, & Gangestad, 1990). This study provided the first direct test of the competing hypotheses by comparing pupil dilation, an involuntary measure of attractiveness, to self-reported attractiveness ratings. People exhibited the same pupil dilation regardless of relationship status; however, coupled participants rated alternative partners as significantly less attractive compared to non-coupled participants. Taken together, these results support the motivational hypothesis in that coupled people actively suppress or recalibrate their initial automatic perceptions of attractiveness to an alternative partner as part of a relationship preservation mechanism.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2014
Alternative partners, Attractiveness, Motivation, Perceptual, Relationship status
Sexual attraction -- Psychological aspects
Monogamous relationships -- Psychological aspects

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