- New research suggests women are more inclined to think a man is attractive if other women have rated him highly.
- This is likely down to our tendency to copy each other.
- It doesn't mean women are likely to pursue married men - if they do, this could be a sign they are unhappy.
People who are attracted to men have different tastes. Some think Dwayne Johnson is their perfect man, whereas others are a fan of Idris Elba or Prince William.
But however unique we think we are, new research suggests we're probably wired to copy each other's preferences.
A new study from the University of St Andrew's, published in the journal Scientific Reports, has found that men get an "attractiveness boost" when they are chosen by others.
For the study, a group of 49 women were shown men's faces and abstract works of art. They were asked to rate the attractiveness of the pictures on a scale of 1 to 100, then they were shown how other women had scored them, and asked to reconsider their answer.
Results showed women reassessed their opinions after they found out what others thought. When it was revealed that other women gave the man a higher score, participants were likely to adjust their score to be higher too.
"Mate-choice copying," when an individual finds potential partners more attractive when they have already been chosen by someone else, happens across the animal kingdom. In birds and fish species, it helps females select high-quality males, and provides an evolutionary advantage.
In humans, this theory suggests women like taken men because they are probably kind and faithful, and thus good partners. However, the new research suggests this might not be what's going on, as women also increased their scores of the abstract works of art when they saw other women had scored them as more attractive.
Also, including lesbian and bisexual women in the experiment didn't change the results. This suggests any woman could be influenced by others' opinions, regardless of whether they were seeking a mate or not.
We're inflenced by the opinions of attractive people
Psychology professor Kate Cross from St Andrews, the lead author of the study, said that the findings may simply be a result of the human tendency to be influenced by the opinion of others.
That being said, previous research has shown that women show an inclination to copy the mate choices of others more than men do. If you buy into the theory that women are biologically wired to seek out quality over quantity when it comes to a partner, this makes sense.
However, according to research such as the paper Mate Choice Copying in Humans, the attractiveness of the woman with the opinion is also important. In fact, it could be more important than how good looking the man is in the first place. This research also suggests it works both ways, as men with an unattractive female partner are seen as less appealing.
Pursuing someone who isn't single is a sign of bigger problems
There's a distinction between women who simply find a man attractive and those who do something about it. According to one study, published in the journal Psychological Science, women found men the most attractive when they were described as having a girlfriend, less so when they were "in love," and even less so when they were married.
So although women may appreciate the opinion of others and what they find attractive, they may not pursue or even fancy unavailable men as a result.
In fact, if they do decide to chase a man who is already taken, it could be because they are unhappy in their own relationships. According to one study, women who score highly on agreeability and conscientiousness are less likely to pursue non-single men.
Finding your friend's husband attractive doesn't necessarily mean you want to jump him. But if you find yourself continually drawn to unavailable men, it might be worth considering whether it's something about you.