Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but other people's opinions matter too when it comes to the attraction between men and women, according to researchers. They found women are more attracted to a man if other women like him too.
"We tend to think about things like attraction as reflecting a private decision or a personal choice but our work shows that people's attractiveness judgements can be influenced in pronounced ways by what other people appear to think of those individuals," said psychologist Dr Ben Jones.
Jones, of the University of Aberdeen, and his team tested the impact of the opinions of others by giving women a test in which they had to choose the more attractive of pairs of male faces and to rate how much more handsome they found them.
They were then shown a short video in which the same faces were displayed. But each face was being looked at by a woman smiling or one showing a bored or neutral expression.
After watching the video, the researchers repeated the initial test.
"We found that the slideshow caused women to become more attracted to the men who were being smiled at by other women," said Jones.
The test had the opposite effect on men however, possibly because of the competition factor amongst males.
When men were asked to look at the same male faces, those who got the approving female glances became less appealing.
"This shows that people are us ing cues to the attitudes of others towards individuals to shape their own attractiveness judgements of those individuals," Jones told Reuters.
The findings, which are reported in The Proceedings of The Royal Society B journal, are similar to mate choice copying seen in other species and are thought to be the first time it has been shown in humans.
Positive female interest in the faces increased the women's preference for the males but it had the opposite effect on male judgements.
Jones suggests the positive reaction conveys a sense of approval for women but the negative male reaction could reflect jealousy or competition.
"If I go to a bar with Brad Pitt, for example, chances are I'm not going to get much interest from the women because Pitt will hog all the attention," he said.