Three cheers for love. Not only does it save human beings from the pangs of bitter loneliness and the indiscriminate reality-TV watching that is despair, one new study (via The Daily Mail) suggests that it’s the reason why our loved ones think we’re so darn good-looking even when we’re not.
Curious to prove whether or not love positively affects people’s perceptions of their partners’ looks, researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands asked nearly a 100 heterosexual young Dutch couples to answer questions relating to their partner’s attractiveness. The participants were asked to rate their partners’ physical and facial beauty and to compare them to strangers around the same age.
To contrast the partner estimations, the researchers sought out the “objective” opinions of unbiased strangers who were then asked to evaluate photographs of all the participating couples for attractiveness.
The results indicated that love is indeed blind, as the couples showed a marked bias towards their amours, evaluating their appeal much higher than strangers did.
Why do we see our loved ones through rose-coloured glasses rather than say through a microscope? The researchers hypothesis isn’t all that romantic, sadly. To their eyes, that misty water-coloured vision is clearly the result of anxiety.
To the researchers, a person’s rosy view of their partner is a “positive illusion” that makes them feel more secure about their relationship. By overestimating their loved ones’ virtues, strengths and er, abdominal strength, people offset any fears about having chosen unwisely.
Said the researchers: “In order to reach some cognitive resolution between their hopes and doubts, and to sustain a sense of security, partners often weave an elaborate fictitious story that both embellishes a partner’s virtues and minimizes his or her faults”.
There’s a real positive side to positive illusion, however; for one, it keeps people together. “By means of these positive illusions, partners may enhance their sense of security, overstate the case of commitment and derogate alternative partners, thus stabilizing their long-term bond.”
But don’t go thinking your partner is too good-looking. The study also suggests that people who think their partner is hot stuff are more prone to jealousy.