How relationship status and sociosexual orientation influence the link between facial attractiveness and visual attention

Aleksandra Mitrovic, Jürgen Goller, Pablo Tinio, Helmut Leder

Facial attractiveness captures and binds visual attention, thus affecting visual exploration of our environment. It is often argued that this effect on attention has evolutionary functions related to mating. Although plausible, such perspectives have been challenged by recent behavioral and eye-tracking studies, which have shown that the effect on attention is moderated by various sex- and goal-related variables such as sexual orientation. In the present study, we examined how relationship status and sociosexual orientation moderate the link between attractiveness and visual attention. We hypothesized that attractiveness leads to longer looks and that being single as well as being more sociosexually unrestricted, enhances the effect of attractiveness. Using an eye-tracking free-viewing paradigm, we tested 150 heterosexual men and women looking at images of urban real-world scenes depicting two people differing in facial attractiveness. Participants additionally provided attractiveness ratings of all stimuli. We analyzed the correlations between how long faces were looked at and participants’ ratings of attractiveness and found that more attractive faces—especially of the other sex—were looked at longer. We also found that more sociosexually unrestricted participants who were single had the highest attractiveness-attention correlation. Our results show that evolutionary predictions cannot fully explain the attractiveness-attention correlation; perceiver characteristics and motives moderate this relationship.

Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology
External organisation(s)
Montclair State University
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501001 General psychology
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