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You always want what you can’t have. That’s the saying, right? Well, a new study suggests this sentiment is especially true for female attraction. According to a paper published in Scientific Reports, men receive an “attractiveness boost” from women when they’re in a committed relationship, a quality shared with abstract art (as in, you don’t know it’s attractive until someone else tells you).
This concept is called “mate-choice copying.” If a potential partner is chosen by someone else, they appear to be of higher quality than men who remain unplucked. According to reports, this is common conduct, as the same idea has been observed in species of birds and fish.
The researchers claim the reassurance comes in handy for females trying to ensure they’ve chosen the best partner for reproduction. For the study, the research team collected attractiveness ratings of pictures of abstract art, men and men’s hands from heterosexual women in the survey. The kicker: They were also given information about how the other participants had voted. The study was then repeated with the inclusion of lesbians and bisexual women and the results stayed the same, highlighting the fact that all women behave in the same way, regardless of who they are attracted to.
“Women in our study found men’s faces more attractive if other women had given that face high ratings. But the same goes for pictures of abstract artworks,” lead author Dr. Kate Cross said of her research. “Women appear to copy the mate preferences of other women, but this might simply be because humans have a general tendency to be influenced by the opinions of others.”
Aside from pointing out that women are socially influenced by other women in regard to men’s attractiveness, no few other insights are shared. So Playboy spoke to Deanna Cobden, dating and relationship coach, who helped further explain the allure of taken men.
“Men in relationships tend to be a little bit more put together and polished, mentally, emotionally and physically and often display the qualities of drive, purpose, ambition, security and stability that women find attractive,” she begins. “That is very often because these types of men have already achieved their own specific career and life goals by the time they’re ready to commit to a relationship. Once they are in that relationship they are ‘all in’ and ready to focus on family and building a life together.”
Now as for whether this plays into the whole “all the good ones are taken” vernacular, Cobden’s not so sure. “It’s a matter of perception, you never really know what’s going on with people,” she admits. “We tend to idealize others’ relationships, but many times the couples you think are perfect end up breaking up, and it wasn’t so rosy after all. Instead of believing the grass is greener on the other side, I believe the grass is greener when you water it.”
After reading of the results of this study, I was reminded of The Bachelor. You know, the wildly successful dating reality show wherein one man finds a woman he loves, and all of the other women automatically love him too because he’s the elected hottie. I mention this to Cobden and started to wonder if our taste in others is more learned than it is biological. She insists it’s a combination of the two, attesting there is always an initial attraction or not. “However, this doesn’t mean instant chemistry, the super-hot kind, is a good idea, because it usually doesn’t end with a perfect lifelong romance.” That’s mainly because you end up starting with the physical, then realize a year or two later that there isn’t enough compatibility for a lifelong partnership with shared qualities and values.”
You can become more attracted to a person physically, mentally and emotionally the more you get to know them. “This is especially true for women, we can fall in love with our brain and start to feel an emotional connection, then become physically attracted. Men tend to fall in love the opposite.”
As for the ladies on The Bachelor, Cobden thinks the spectacle of the situation can be blinding, going after a man but not necessarily being real about who they are or who he is and if the relationship would really be a good one for marriage. “Also,” she adds. They tend to be quite young and on the immature side.” A lot nicer than I would have put it, but sure.
All boiled down, female attraction toward committed men is largely due to the preconceived idea that taken men have their shit together. But, as Cobden mentions, we romanticize people’s relationships. The taken man might be a dipshit, too.
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