Dec. 8, 2011 at 4:24 PM ET
If you are looking for romance, is it better to have a hot or homely wingman (or wingwoman)?
We got to wondering because a study of guppies – yes, little fish -- out this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, showed that when females don’t want attention from males, they hang out with especially sexy females (in guppies, sexy means “willing to have sex”).
Basically, when guppy gals aren’t in the mood, they surround themselves with hot-to-trot pals, so they get some peace.
But does the same hold true for humans?
There’s not a lot of evidence, but our perception of others has a lot to do with the company they keep. It’s all a matter of relativity, according to research conducted at Stirling University in Scotland.
In a study released this month, scientists there found that when men were asked to rate the attractiveness of a target woman who was paired with a more attractive woman, and were told the two women were friends, the men thought the target woman was less desirable.
Other research shows that men probably don’t want a wingman at all. Instead they should hang with Elisabetta Canalis.
Researchers at California State University, Fullerton, found that women test subjects rated men as being more attractive when the guys were surrounded by other women than when the guys were depicted alone or with other men.
It’s like that old Seinfeld episode where George shows off a picture of a model that came in his new wallet, claiming she’s his dead fiancé. Suddenly, he’s invited to a secret nightclub full of models.
Something called “mate-choice copying” may be at work. In nature, when females of many species see a male having sex with other females, they appear to regard him as a catch, sort of like crowd-source book reviews. If you think lots of others liked it, then it must be good.