You do not only hurt the one you love: Self-protective responses to attractive relationship alternatives

E. Ashby Plant*, Jonathan W. Kunstman, Jon K. Maner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Committed romantic relationships confer important benefits to psychological health and well-being. However, to effectively maintain these relationships, individuals must avoid threats posed by the temptation of attractive relationship alternatives. Previous work has demonstrated that individuals in committed relationships consciously downplay the allure of romantic alternatives. The current work tested the hypothesis that attractive relationship alternatives evoke an automatic self-protective response at an early stage of cognition. The current study employed a computer simulation that recorded automatic, split-second assessments of threat elicited by social targets that varied in their gender and level of attractiveness. Consistent with hypotheses, attractive opposite-sex targets evoked automatic self-protective responses from participants in committed heterosexual relationships. Moreover, these responses seemed to be particularly pronounced among the male participants in committed relationships. These findings have implications for the maintenance of long-term close relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)474-477
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010


  • Attraction
  • Gender
  • Physical attractiveness
  • Relationship maintenance
  • Romantic relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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