Attractive women in relationships pay more attention to the looks of potential female love rivals than those of men, a study found.
Researchers found that being in a relationship meant females had a sharper memory for the faces of how other women looked, compared to when they were single.
The psychologists behind the study suggest that the reason women have the superior memory for potential rivals’ faces is to guard against their partners being stolen from them.
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In another intriguing finding, they found that women had a ‘strong positive bias’ to think a man’s face was more attractive than it was.
This suggests that women put on rose-tinted spectacles when assessing male beauty.
In their experiment, researchers from Abertay University in Dundee tested the memory for faces of women in long-term romantic relationships.
The women completed a standard memory task in which they viewed faces for three seconds each and were later asked if they had seen the faces before.
Computer graphics were used to alter the appearance of some of the faces in the memory test, with participants sometimes shown more attractive or less attractive versions of previously viewed identities.
The quality of the women’s relationships were also assessed by means of a questionnaire.
Abertay’s Dr Christopher Watkins said the research findings showed women in good relationships were particularly adept at remembering other women’s faces.
Dr Watkins of Abertay’s Division of Psychology said: ‘We wanted to examine whether personal factors influence memory – how good you judge your current relationship to be and how attractive other people are likely to find you.’
‘Our findings suggest that these two factors shape both accuracy and illusions in how you remember the attractiveness of faces after a brief encounter.’
In their research paper, published in Cognition, the authors also looked at how women remembered men’s faces.
The authors, summarising their research said: ‘Collectively, these findings suggest that, even with minimal exposure to faces, women are better at retaining knowledge about the identity and appearance of attractive women, but have a stronger positive bias in their memory for men’s appearance’.
The authors add: ‘women may generally be biased toward positive illusions of men’s attractiveness’ and this was most true in the women who were happiest in their relationships.
The research was published in the journal Cognition.