Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 2327–2338 | Cite as

Prioritized Identification of Attractive and Romantic Partner Faces in Rapid Serial Visual Presentation

  • Koyo Nakamura
  • Shihoko Arai
  • Hideaki KawabataEmail author
Original Paper


People are sensitive to facial attractiveness because it is an important biological and social signal. As such, our perceptual and attentional system seems biased toward attractive faces. We tested whether attractive faces capture attention and enhance memory access in an involuntary manner using a dual-task rapid serial visual presentation (dtRSVP) paradigm, wherein multiple faces were successively presented for 120 ms. In Experiment 1, participants (N = 26) were required to identify two female faces embedded in a stream of animal faces as distractors. The results revealed that identification of the second female target (T2) was better when it was attractive compared to neutral or unattractive. In Experiment 2, we investigated whether perceived attractiveness affects T2 identification (N = 27). To this end, we performed another dtRSVP task involving participants in a romantic partnership with the opposite sex, wherein T2 was their romantic partner’s face. The results demonstrated that a romantic partner’s face was correctly identified more often than was the face of a friend or unknown person. Furthermore, the greater the intensity of passionate love participants felt for their partner (as measured by the Passionate Love Scale), the more often they correctly identified their partner’s face. Our experiments indicate that attractive and romantic partners’ faces facilitate the identification of the faces in an involuntary manner.


Facial attractiveness Passionate love Attention Rapid serial visual presentation 



This research was carried out under the JSPS KAKENHI (JP26119525, JP16H01515) and Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows (JP15J08281).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Koyo Nakamura has received a grant for fellows (constituting public funds) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Shihoko Arai has no grant. Hideaki Kawabata has received research grants (constituting public funds) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. All authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and were approved by the local ethics committee of university that the authors are affiliated with. All procedures were carried out in accordance with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the studies. Before starting the experiment, each participant in all studies provided informed consent and signed a written consent form.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Faculty of LettersKeio UniversityTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Japan Society for the Promotion of ScienceTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of Science and EngineeringWaseda UniversityTokyoJapan

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