Many people like to think they have a "type," a certain sort of individual or set of qualities that we look for in a potential romantic partner. But who and what we find attractive may depend on our relationship status, finds a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology.
For single people, opposites attract, meaning they're more likely to be interested in physical qualities dissimilar to their own. For those in a relationship, however, self-resemblance appears to be more enticing.
For the study, an international team of researchers from the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom enlisted 120 participants to rate a series of photos, 15 same-sex and 15 opposite-sex images, based on the attractiveness of the faces in each one. Prior to showing the photos, using a program called Psychomorph, the researchers digitally manipulated a number of the images to create composites that included facial features from each participant's photograph.
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In a second part of their study, the researchers then asked participants to rate preferences in short- vs. long-term contexts, in other words a fling versus an enduring, committed relationship. The researchers describe this as a "sexy" versus "nice" rating because of the qualities typically sought after in the two different kinds of relationships, physical attractiveness in the former and trustworthiness in the latter..
Participants who were single tended to rate higher in terms of attractiveness or sexiness faces dissimilar to their own. Those in a relationship preferred the faces that looked more like themselves.
This effect held true when they rated both same-sex and opposite-sex faces. There was also no significant difference in preference in the short- versus long-term contexts.
So what explains why our perceptions of attractiveness shift when we're in a relationship? The researchers have a theory.
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