Want to look attractive? Well, forget designer suits, cool watches and cars, and simply pair yourself up with a hot partner.
That's the conclusion of a new study.
To come up with the finding, scientists had 30 male and 30 female volunteers who all described themselves as straight rate how attractive they found photos of 36 men and 36 women.
Then the participants were shown 144 pictures of men and women paired together and quizzed how desirable they would find long-term relationships with members of the opposite sex in the pictures.
Both male and female volunteers rated people in the pictures as more desirable when they were paired next to attractive companions, the scientists found. By using cameras to track eye movements during the experiments, the researchers also saw that when volunteers spent more time looking at a potential mate's unattractive partner, they were less interested in that mate, reports Live Science.
"Even though people were only asked to evaluate the potential mate in each photograph, they all spent a significant amount of time looking at the mate's partner," said researcher Jessica Yorzinski, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Davis. "Women spent more time looking at the partners that they found attractive, while men shifted their gaze back and forth more."
Furthermore, while male volunteers were interested in attractive women regardless of their partners, female volunteers were more skeptical of attractive men if they were paired with unappealing companions, the analysis showed.
"The men might have just had a higher level of interest in all potential mates, and were less discriminating than females would be," Yorzinski said.
"If the single person was previously seen with an attractive partner, this could still boost their chances," Yorzinski noted. "If you were a woman and a previous boyfriend was attractive and some other guy saw you with him, maybe that would increase your chances if you broke up and were available again. Or perhaps if women doing online dating Web sites are pictured with attractive boyfriends, that would help them get more responses with their ads."
Yorzinski and her colleague Michael Platt detailed their findings online Feb. 9 in the journal PLoS ONE.