You can look, but you can’t touch: People are more attractive when ‘off-limits’

By Amelia Orwick

People always want what they can’t have.

A recent study by UK psychology professor Nathan DeWall shows that forbidding a significant other to look at other attractive people may lead them to do just the opposite.

DeWall and three research partners tested what they called the “forbidden fruit” hypothesis in a series of three experiments.

The subjects were all romantically involved individuals whose “attitudes toward unfaithfulness, memory for attractive relationship alternatives and attentional bias toward attractive relationship alternatives” were tested, according to the published study.

What they discovered was that an attractive man or woman is more enticing when they are considered “off limits.”

“Say I tell you not to think of a white bear,” DeWall said. “Now a white bear is what your mind is focusing on.” The same concept applies in relationships where a person is restricted.

The researchers also found that the experiment had the same effects on both men and women, and that those who were pressured not to look at others agreed that cheating is “not so bad.”

The study, “Forbidden Fruit: Inattention to Attractive Alternatives Provokes Implicit Relationship Reactance,” has gained national recognition from publications such as The New York Times.

The findings were surprising to the researchers, who found the results somewhat counterintuitive.

When it comes to pushing a partner to stay true, “I thought, ‘maybe they’ll be more committed,’” DeWall said.

Students experiencing young love, on the other hand, may understand how it feels to be limited.

“That’s standard,” Kortney Warfield, a nursing sophomore said. “If you tell somebody not to do something, they’re going to do the opposite.”