Scientists from Rutgers University and New York University recently concluded a set of experiments in which they found evidence that couples downgrade the attractiveness of individuals that they perceive as a threat to their relationships. The results were published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Therefore if you find yourself minimizing the looks of someone you think you would have dated/been with if you were not with your partner—you may be unconsciously trying to boost your self-control so that you aren’t tempted to step over the line with them. This would be especially true if your present relationship is a happy one that meets many of your needs.
What is unique about this research is that they were able to test for unconscious visual bias—in the past it was always the conscious bias of participants that was measured. Participants who were shown pictures of attractive, popular, and single individuals downgraded them while the pictures they viewed of less attractive but coupled people were routinely upgraded to be more attractive than the single individuals. They were even offered $50.00 to get it right, and still the coupled people got higher marks for attractiveness, which demonstrated that this was how they were actually being perceived.
A second study was done in which participants were first asked how happy they were in their relationships. Then they were asked to grade the same pictures for attractiveness. Guess what? The ones who rated their relationships as happy, had similar picks as the first group. Those who were dissatisfied in their relationships gave the higher marks to the individuals in the single, attractive and available group. This clearly showed that if they were happy they did not want to risk temptation and if not—they were allowing themselves to notice others who were attractive.
Interesting stuff. Check it out