Automatic inattention to attractive alternatives: the evolved psychology of relationship maintenance

Jon K. Maner*, David Aaron Rouby, Gian C. Gonzaga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-349
Number of pages7
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008


  • Attention
  • Cognitive bias
  • Emotion
  • Mating
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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