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Will a bit of manufactured flirtation from a good-looking individual cause most people to second-guess the value of their relationships?
Yes, says a new study.
Just being made to feel attractive by someone we deem as attractive, even if it’s entirely manipulated, can cause us to think less of our partners and subsequently more of ourselves.
That was the conclusion New Zealand researchers came to in a recent study, which was published in The Journal of Social Psychology.
The researchers essentially tricked 81 young people, the average age being 19, into believing they were sampling a new dating program for its developers.
Each participant was involved in a committed relationship at the time of the study and was asked to rate that coupling in terms of satisfaction and their own level of commitment to it.
They also were asked to rate their self-esteem.
They would then participate in mock interviews, which actually consisted of prerecorded videos from members of the opposite sex deemed to be attractive.
Afterward they would find out if any of the “daters” expressed an interest in seeing them.
“When someone attractive expressed
interest, participants rated their partner lower.”
At the very conclusion, they would again be asked to rate their current relationship, as well as their self-esteem.
When a person was told they received positive feedback, meaning someone attractive expressed an interest in seeing them, they were more likely to rate their partner and relationship lower while offering higher numbers on their self-esteem.
Likewise, when they received negative feedback, they were more likely to view their relationship more favorably while downgrading their own self-esteem.
Both satisfaction level and commitment to the relationship improved when a person found out the attractive daters were not interested in them. The exact opposite happened when they were told the person had expressed interest.
Some have interpreted the conclusions to suggest we are more prone to cheat, or even potentially break up, should the opportunity to “trade up” present itself.