There can be important reproductive benefits to maintaining a long-term romantic relationship. As a result, humans may possess evolved psychological mechanisms designed to help them maintain their commitment to a long-term mate, particularly when faced with attractive alternative relationship partners. The current study identifies a relationship maintenance process that involves being inattentive to alternative relationship partners. Experimentally eliciting thoughts and feelings of romantic love—an emotion thought to have evolved for the purpose of relationship maintenance—reduced attention to alternative partners at an early, automatic stage of visual perception. Consistent with evolutionary models of mate selection, this reduction in attention was observed only for opposite sex targets displaying high levels of physical attractiveness. This research illustrates the utility of integrating evolutionary models of mating with theory and method from cognitive science.
Source: “Automatic inattention to attractive alternatives: the evolved psychology of relationship maintenance” from Evolution and Human Behavior 29 (2008) 343–349