Study: Having An Attractive Partner Means Less Empathy From Others

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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Having an attractive partner means other people feel less empathy when that person experiences something negative, like pain or misfortune, according to a new study.

People naturally have a great desire to date people they find highly attractive. But when people witness someone else partnered with an attractive mate, neighborly social norms go by the wayside. In other words, the “lucky guy” may be less lucky with people who aren’t his attractive mate, according to a study conducted by several researchers in China.

Participants in the evaluation were shown two couples while undergoing an MRI scan. One of the exhibited couples was considered plain, meaning participants found the member of the opposite sex neither attractive nor unattractive. The other couple shown was the opposite, where the member of the opposite sex, was considered attractive by the participant.

The participant would be shown a picture of the member of the same sex about to experience something painful, like scissors or a knife about to cut his or her skin.

“Results showed that, at the behavioral level, participants reported less liking, lower empathic pain intensity, and higher envy” for the “lucky guy” with an attractive partner, when compared to the one with a “plain partner,” the study’s report reads.

In other words, a man viewing something bad happening to a man with an attractive partner neurally yields less compassion for a man viewing something bad happening to a man with an indifferently attractive partner.

Results appear to indicate that “intrasexual competition” makes people less empathetic, and more jealous.

A separate study conducted by researchers at Texas Christian University showed that women are more attracted to a man when that man is surrounded by other attractive females, supporting a classic theory that women like men who are already taken.

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