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Romantic love and sexual desire function to promote bonding between romantic partners and intimate physical contact between mating partners, respectively. In the current study, we examined how love and sexual desire might modulate attention to physically attractive alternative potential mates – that is, opposite-sex individuals other than one's current romantic partner - in ways that might enhance or undermine relationship commitment. One-hundred twenty heterosexual individuals currently involved in a committed romantic relationship participated in a study that assessed the selective attentional processing of same and opposite-sex faces using a "face-in-the crowd" task. We anticipated that, for participants less in love with their partners, feeling a surge of love would decrease attention only to attractive members of the opposite-sex. Furthermore, we anticipated that, for individuals with unrestricted sociosexuality, feeling a surge of sexual desire would increase attention only to physically attractive members of the opposite-sex. Results indicated that momentary experiences of romantic love reduced attention directed toward attractive members of the opposite-sex, especially among those reporting lower enduring levels of love for their partners. This decreased attention to desirable alternative partners might serve as an important relationship maintenance mechanism.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Psychology in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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