Nearly all women feel threatened by an attractive peer due to which their reaction towards the woman can range from a simple sneer and raised eyebrows through to name calling.
Psychologist Tracy Vaillancourt, from the University of Ottawa and Dr Aanchal Sharma of McMaster University in Canada, conducted studies with the intention of discovering just how hostile a woman will become when confronted by an attractive member of her own sex, the Daily Mail reported.
Sharma assembled a group of women in a room. Half were friends, half strangers. They knew they were there to take part in a scientific study, but not what it entailed.
All the participants were being secretly filmed. As they waited, an attractive blonde woman dressed in a short skirt, a cleavage-flashing top, and knee-length boots came in and asked the group what study they were there to take part in.
Later, she sent the same woman into the group, but this time she was unrecognisable as her hair was scraped back and she was wearing khaki trousers, flat shoes and a high-neck T-shirt. The different reactions the woman received were staggering.
The researcher found that when dressed sexily, she was greeted with eye rolling and head-shaking as the women in the room traded sneers. And it wasn't just the friends who exchanged tuts. Strangers also ganged up on her.
After the sexy woman left, some of them burst out laughing and made comments. One even suggested it was obviously her intention to sleep with the professor. Yet, when the same woman entered the room plainly dressed, her appearance drew no reaction.
In a second experiment, Vaillancourt showed a group of women three photos of a slim and pretty woman. In the first she was sexily dressed, in the second she was provocatively attired but her image had been digitally altered to a size 16. In the final snap, she was dressed in a conservative way.
The women were then asked which girl they were more likely to be friends with and which they would introduce to their other half, and all of them opted for the plain Jane.
According to Vaillancourt, we are simply following our primeval instinct and attempting to survive by destroying the competition. Many years ago, we may have done it by clobbering somebody over the head with a club, now we do it with a withering look.