Neural mediators of attraction, acceptance, and rejection
(11 June 2007: VIDYYA MEDICAL NEWS SERVICE) -- Researchers from the University of Minnesota are reporting at the June meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping that an attractive womanís acceptance of a date with a male participant makes her appear more physically attractive to him and increases his brain activity in areas associated with reward or positive feelings. This does not occur if the woman is rejecting or unattractive. This finding provides new insights into how the male brain combines information about a womanís physical attractiveness and the womanís acceptance of him to influence his perceptions of her (further work is necessary to determine whether a similar effect occurs in women).
Participants viewed photos of women pre-selected for high or low attractiveness while their brain activity was measured. They imagined themselves in a dating service. Before each photo, participants learned that the woman in the photo had: (a) accepted him for a date, (b) rejected him for a date, or (c) had not seen information on him. Afterwards, they rated each womanís attractiveness. Attractiveness ratings mirrored results found in brain areas that are associated with processing the reward value of faces; attractive women accepting a date were rated as most attractive.
This research suggests that knowledge of another personís acceptance not only changes what we think about that person, but also what we perceive of their physical appearance. Social information may change our sensory and emotional experiences. More practically, the results also suggest that playing hard to get may affect how attractive you appear.
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