Men may believe being in a relationship takes them off the market for single women, but according to a new study, this couldn't be further from the truth. Apparently, women find men who are sought after by other women to be more desirable, and perceive a man with an attractive romantic partner as being more desirable than a single man.

The study, which is published in the online journal Evolutionary Psychology, found what we suspected: men look better when other girls want to date them. Female volunteers found men more desirable when they were pictured with an attractive partner compared to when the men were shown alone. Not only were these men seen as more desirable, they also tended to be viewed as more intelligent, trustworthy, humorous, wealthy, romantic, goal driven, adventurous, generous, and attentive to the needs of others, Psypost reported.

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We were initially interested in this topic because of the common phrase you hear young women say: “All the good guys are taken.” This phrase assumes that men in relationships are higher quality, explained the researchers, as reported by PsyPost. “As such, we became interested in how women perceive men based on the quality and attractiveness of the woman whose attention he holds.”

For the study, the team had 245 female college students gauge the attractiveness of men in photographs. The men were either shown alone or with an attractive female partner.

The researchers suggest their study shows that mate selection decisions are not as random as we may think, and instead are “heavily influenced by social factors,” such as how others view a partner. Still, the researchers emphasized that although external factors, such as public opinion, may initially be important in human attraction, eventually women will place greater priority in other “unobservable” qualities such as kindness, generosity, and resource access.

Source: Rodeheffer CD, Proffitt Leyva RP, Hill SE. Attractive Female Romantic Partners Provide a Proxy for Unobservable Male Qualities:The When and Why Behind Human Female Mate Choice Copying. Evolutionary Psychology. 2016

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