The implicit cognition of relationship maintenance: Inattention to attractive alternatives

Jon K. Maner*, Matthew T. Gailliot, Saul L. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


The temptation of alternative mating partners can threaten satisfaction with and commitment to an existing romantic relationship. Consequently, people exhibit cognitive processes that help protect their relationship when faced with desirable relationship alternatives. Previous studies have focused primarily on processes that involve explicit, higher-order cognitive mechanisms such as overt judgments and choices (e.g., judging the alternative as less attractive). The current studies, in contrast, examined automatic, early-stage attentional processes that may help protect against threats posed by exposure to alternative mating partners. Whereas single participants responded to implicit mating primes by increasing early-stage attention to physically attractive opposite sex targets, participants in a committed romantic relationship were inattentive to those attractive alternatives. This research provides a novel approach for studying implicit cognitive mechanisms involved in maintaining close relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-179
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Attention
  • Individual differences
  • Mating
  • Physical attractiveness
  • Romantic relationships
  • Social perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The implicit cognition of relationship maintenance: Inattention to attractive alternatives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this