When it comes to resisting sexual temptation and remaining faithful to one's partner in life, The Beatles got it right: All You Need Is Love. A new study published Wednesday said that people who are in love with their partners are less attracted to other people.
Numerous studies have shown that humans are not especially self-restrained when it comes to gratification. We prefer to indulge in pleasure when opportunity arises.
But when it comes to love and lust, this otherwise reliable human trait -- get it while you can -- leads to a paradox: Why do people in stable relationships so often pass up the chance for a little sexual gratification on the side, even if they can get away with it?
To find out, psychologist Gian Gonzaga invited 60 heterosexual undergraduates at the University of California in Los Angeles who had been in relationships for at least three years to ogle a photograph of a hot babe or hunk of the opposite sex they found especially attractive, taken from a popular dating site.
After writing a short essay on what they found alluring about the person in the picture, Gonzaga then divided his guinea pigs into three groups.
The first was asked to write an essay about the moment when they had felt the strongest feeling of love for their current partner, while the second group had to recall their most memorable and intense sexual encounter.
The third group had the freedom to write about whatever came to mind.
All the students were instructed, while writing their essays, to not think about the good-looking guy or gal in the photo.
But every time the tempter did pop into mind while scribbling, the students had to tick a box.
The group that focused on love rather than lust strayed in thoughts three times less than the group asked to describe the most memorable sexual encounter with their long-term partner.
Those given free rein with a pen apparently couldn't keep their minds off the sexy photos, and ticked the box six times more than the "love" group.
"Feeling love for your romantic partner appears to make everybody else less attractive," Gonzaga told a UCLA newsletter.
The study is published in the journal Evolution and Biology and also reported by the British weekly New Scientist.