Derogation or enhancement? Attractiveness evaluations of potential partners by single and coupled people
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Coupled people and single people evaluate potential partners differently, such that coupled people rate potential partners as significantly less appealing than single people. Yet, at present, it is impossible to determine the mechanism that underlies this mean difference: derogation, the tendency for partnered individuals to devalue attractive alternatives, or enhancement, the tendency for single people to bolster the attractiveness of potential partners. In the current study, we aim to provide clarity on this issue by conceptually replicating and advancing previous work on the derogation and enhancement of potential partners. We do this using a baseline comparison group (neutral coders who also rated the attractiveness of the participants’ potential partners) in addition to coupled and single peoples’ evaluations. Also, unlike previous derogation and enhancement studies, participants in the present study evaluated potential partners with whom they interacted in their everyday lives. We found the expected mean difference between ratings made by coupled and single individuals. Additionally, compared to the neutral baseline ratings, enhancement emerged as a stronger mechanism than derogation. Limitations of this study and potential explanations for these results are discussed.