Eyeballing the Forbidden Fruit

Ordering your significant other to ignore the attractive person at the next table might backfire, according to a new study. Nathan DeWall and Timothy Deckman conducted a series of experiments with students at Florida State University who identified themselves as being in a romantic relationship: “Students were simultaneously presented with photos of attractive and average-looking individuals of the opposite sex on a computer screen.?Some of the students tested were implicitly directed to focus their attention away from the more attractive individuals toward those that were more average-looking through a reaction-time task. Other students were not prompted at all.” The students who were told to focus away from the attractive individuals reported “being less satisfied and committed to their current relationship partner.?These same participants were more accepting of infidelity in their relationship, more likely to remember the attractive faces from the task and more apt to pay attention to new attractive faces.” As DeWall puts it: “Deciding for yourself to avoid attractive relationship alternatives can enhance relationship well-being. Our investigation, however, demonstrates that implicitly preventing people from attending to desirable relationship alternatives may undermine, rather than bolster, the strength of that person’s romantic relationship.” [%comments]

Ian Kemmish

Or, they just had less time to digest the more attractive photograph and come to the realisation that the person in it wasn't as attractive as first thought.

This experiment is a world away from the restaurant scenario posited.

Eric M. Jones

Count me LUCKY. If I pointed out a knockout across the room, my wife would agree. Life would go on--even a little better--because we had shared some common reference in time and space.

Compare this an earlier travail:

"If I died, " she said, "would you ever date my friend Barbara?" (My almost imperceptible delay in answering chilled our relationship.)

"Would you save my life if it meant losing your own?" (My thoughtful philosophizing doomed our relationship).

"Do you think Kelly LeBrock is prettier than me?" (Yes, we had some good times, but...maybe it's time to move on....)


Unrelated to the post, but just noticed that freakonomics is available for streaming on netflix! http://instantwatcher.com/titles/163998


Even though the experiment involved people 40 years my junior, I can attest to the validity of the findings even after thirty five years of marital harmony. However, attractive will have a different definition at my age and being told to ignore the "interesting person" may be more apt.


I always make a point of calling my husband attention to a beautiful woman, or a pair of shapely legs, or a particularly charming feature of an acquaintance. Beauty should be appreciated. Respectfully, and from a distance.

Harold Cheney Jr

I will be 82 next month. Married for going on 58 years.
Often, at the check-out (Wal-Mart, for example), I will turn to my Missus and ask, "... can I tell this young lady she has beautiful hair (or eyes, or such -- never those less displayable charms)."
The response is usually a resigned sigh and rolling of the eyes.
Watching my Father, in my youth, I thought that this was expected of older men.


I feel like people should be able to look at whoever they want. Whether you have a boyfriend or girlfriend there is nothing wrong with thinking someone else is attractive. When spouses tell the other one not to look or get mad when they do, it causes problems and makes them seem controlling. I think being open and being able to think someone else is attractive would only make your relationship stronger.

Morgan Hicks

I feel that in most cases when you tell somebody not to do something that's exactly what they are going to do.That makes the study less accurate than if they saw these attractive people in person. Then you can really see if this would really be how another attractive individual would have an effect on a relationship.


I think the word association "35 years of marriage" and " marital harmony" is at least wishful thinking :)
But hey...there are exceptions

Andres Garcia

I've never considered myself a controlling person so this aspect of a relationship has never come up in my personal life. If anything me and my significant other would admire the beauties of others instead of being possessive and jealous about it.