People who are in a relationship are more likely to be attracted to faces which resemble their own, but for those who are single, opposites attract, a new study suggests. “Relationship status affects who and what we find attractive,” researchers said. Jitka Lindova and colleagues from Charles University in the Czech Republic showed a series of photographs of faces to university students and asked them to rate their attractiveness.
The photographs were digitally manipulated so that the resemblance to the student was modified.
Images were of an individual of the opposite sex, whose face had been manipulated to look either more or less similar to the student. They were also presented with images of a same-sex individual manipulated in the same way.
“We found that single participants, those not in relationships, rate dissimilar faces as more attractive and sexy than self-resembling faces,” said Lindova. This was observed when participants rated both same-sex and opposite-sex faces.
“For the first time, we have observed how our partnership status affects who we find attractive,” she said.
Researchers’ interpretation is that attractiveness perception mechanisms that give us a preference for a genetically suitable partner may be suppressed during romantic relationships.
“This might be a relationship maintenance strategy to prevent us from finding alternatives to our own partner, or perhaps self-resemblance becomes more important in terms of the social support we expect receive from relatives, which are known as kinship cues,” said Lindova.
The findings may also might help to explain social phenomena such as parent and adolescent disaffection, she said.