The biological factors
She scorns you because you don’t miss any pretty face on the street. Don’t worry: she too does the same. The truth revealed by a new Florida State University research is that no matter if we are looking for a mate or assessing a potential rival, beautiful people capture our attention nearly instantaneously. “It’s like magnetism at the level of visual attention,” said Jon Maner, an assistant professor of psychology at FSU. “The paper is one of the first to show how strongly, quickly and automatically we are attuned to attractive people,” he said.
Maner’s team discovered that the study’s subjects, all heterosexual men and women, focussed on attractive people within less than 0.5 seconds from the moment they saw them.
Single folks checked all the opposite sex representatives, but those in long-term relationships presented a major difference: their interest in beautiful people of the same sex. “If we’re interested in finding a mate, our attention gets quickly and automatically stuck on attractive members of the opposite sex. If we’re jealous and worried about our partner cheating on us, attention gets quickly and automatically stuck on attractive people of our own sex because they are our competitors.”, said Maner.
Our brains have evolved to react strongly to signs of physical attractiveness to detect the best mate and warding off potential competitors. “These kinds of attentional biases can occur completely outside of our conscious awareness,” he said.
This comes with annoyances in our romantic relationship: even if we are committed in long-term relationships, we find it difficult to shift our attention from images of attractive individuals of the opposite sex. Focusing on images of potential romantic rivals triggers feelings of insecurity (translated to jealousy) in our partners.
This trap is increased by modern technology. There may be people of striking beauty in real life, but they can be industrially produced by movies, magazines or on the Internet. “It may be helpful to try to minimize our exposure to these images that have probably been ‘doctored’. We should pay attention to all of the regular-looking people out in the world so that we have an appropriate standard of physical beauty. This is important because too much attention to ultra-attractive people can damage self-esteem as well as satisfaction with a current romantic partner.”, said Maner.
The new research was made on 442 subjects who completed questionnaires assessing how much they were motivated to look for members of the opposite sex. After that, they watched images of highly attractive men, highly attractive women, average-looking men and average-looking women. After a photo of a face appeared in one quadrant of a computer screen, the subjects were asked to shift their attention to somewhere else on the screen. The researchers discovered that it took the subjects longer to shift their attention from the photos of the highly attractive people.
“I am surprised that my studies showed little differences between the sexes when it came to fixating on eye-catching people. Women paid just as much attention to men as men did to women. I was also surprised that jealous men paid so much attention to attractive men. Men tend to worry more about other men being more dominant, funny or charismatic than they are. But when it comes to concerns about infidelity, men are very attentive to highly attractive guys because presumably their wives or girlfriends may be too.”, said Maner.