Seeing what you want to see: Sexual activation makes potential partners seem more appealing and romantically interested

Gurit E. Birnbaum, Mor Iluz, Einat Plotkin, Lihi Tibi, Ronit Hematian, Moran Mizrahi, Harry T. Reis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent studies have indicated that activation of the sexual system fosters relationship initiation. In three studies, we expand on this work to investigate whether sexual activation encourages initiating relationship with prospective partners by biasing the way they are perceived. In all studies, participants encountered a potential partner and rated this partner’s attractiveness and romantic interest following sexual activation. Participants’ interest in the partner was self-reported or evaluated by raters. Study 1 revealed that sexual activation led participants to perceive potential partners as more attractive and interested in oneself. Study 2 added to these findings, providing a test of sexual priming rather than more general closeness priming. Mediational analyses in Study 3 indicated that heightened romantic interest mediated the link between sexual activation and perceiving potential partners as more interested in oneself. These findings suggest that sexual activation facilitates relationship initiation by motivating projection of one’s desires onto prospective partners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3051-3069
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Volume37
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Attraction
  • dating
  • impression formation
  • relationship initiation
  • sexual desire

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