Washington, Nov 25 (ANI): While experimenting with African cichlid fish, Stanford biologists discovered that when a female shows a preference for a particular male, but then witnesses him losing a fight with another male, her feelings toward him change.
Areas of the female's brain associated with anxiety showed increased activity after witnessing an altercation, say the researchers.
"It is the same as if a woman were dating a boxer and saw her potential mate get the crap beat out of him really badly," said Julie Desjardins, a postdoctoral researcher in biology. "She may not consciously say to herself, 'Oh, I'm not attracted to this guy anymore because he's a loser,' but her feelings might change anyhow."
"Our intuition is that this response is likely to occur under similar conditions in humans because the brain areas involved are present in all vertebrates and perform comparable functions," said Russ Fernald, a professor of biology.
Desjardins is the first author of a paper describing the research, to be published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Desjardins said that with people, the subconscious change of heart would likely happen in response to a failure in any competitive situation - whether it's losing at a game or missing out on a promotion at work - not just a brawl. She said that men might also feel differently after seeing a "female of interest" fail at something competitive.
But all is not necessarily lost for the loser - at least not the human one.
We can take heart, she said, because we have so much more cognitive ability than fish and can reason our way out of these subtle twinges of doubt. And not all pair-bonding relationships are equal.
"Obviously, long-term committed relationships are very different than, say, people who have just started dating, or are in the initial phases of mate choice," Desjardins said.
So losing a game of beer pong may - or may not - have relationship-ending consequences. (ANI)