Wang H, Hahn AC, DeBruine LM & Jones BC (2016). Do partnered women discriminate men’s faces less along the attractiveness dimension? Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Vancouver, Canada. June 2016.

Romantic relationships can have positive effects on health and reproductive fitness. Given that attractive potential alternative mates can pose a threat to romantic relationships, some researchers have proposed that partnered individuals discriminate opposite-sex individuals less along the physical attractiveness dimension than do unpartnered individuals. This effect is proposed to devalue attractive (i.e., high quality) alternative mates and help maintain romantic relationships. Here we investigated this issue by comparing the effects of men’s attractiveness on partnered and unpartnered women’s performance on two response measures for which attractiveness is known to be important: memory for face photographs (Study 1) and the reward value of faces (Study 2). Consistent with previous research, women’s memory was poorer for face photographs of more attractive men (Study 1) and more attractive men’s faces were more rewarding (Study 2). However, in neither study were these effects of attractiveness modulated by women’s partnership status or partnered women’s reported commitment to or happiness with their romantic relationship. These results do not support the proposal that partnered women discriminate potential alternative mates along the physical attractiveness dimension less than do unpartnered women.

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