Flaunt and hide partners

Flaunt attractive partners

This is the title of a study: “If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It: Humans Flaunt Attractive Partners to Enhance Their Status and Desirability.”

This title grabbed me and just wouldn’t let go, and my sitcom voice went something like this:

“Hey, man, look at this beautiful, beautiful specimen that I’m relationshipping with. I’m so powerful. I’m so sexy. See? See? No man. Don’t look at me. Look at my arm candy.”

After reading the title, I needed no more information, but you might.

If you want to read the original article, go here. It’s published in an open access journal, so the article is free to view & download! If you want the highlights, here we go….

Let’s start with signaling theory. Signaling theory says that animals send signals to other animals. An example of a signal is a peacock’s beautiful plumage that fills others with shameful envy. Such signals inform others about one’s hidden qualities such as dominance, strength, intelligence, status, and mate goodness.

Jumping of this, the researchers thought – hmmmm – for humans, beautiful partners are in-your-face symbols that send information about status, money in the bank, and arguably genetic superiority.

If this is true, the researchers predicted that people would flaunt the attractive ones and hide the unattractive ones.

How did they test this prediction?

Researchers informed university students that each one was to administer a survey with a partner of the opposite sex. During the survey, the partners were to act as if they were in a happy romantic relationship. Each student then viewed a picture of the partner – who was either very attractive or very unattractive. There was also a control group of students who were to administer the survey alone. The singletons! There was no gazing at a stranger’s photograph for them.

All participants then indicated the following:

  • LOCATION: Where they would like to conduct the survey – either at a location full of undergraduate students or full of administrators. The undergraduate location is filled with peers and therefore the “flaunting location,” while in the administrative location is full of people outside of their peer group and therefore the “concealing location.”
  • TIME: The times that they were available to conduct the survey.
  • MOTIVATION: How they would feel as they collected the survey data and how they thought they would be perceived.

The end.

Then the researchers told everyone – hey, we were just joking – we mean experimenting. There is no survey. There are no partners. We just wanted to see what people would do with attractive and unattractive romantic partners.

And what were they going to do?

The women wanted to show off the attractive partners: those paired with someone attractive were more likely than the singletons to choose the flaunting location. However, the women did NOT hide the unattractive partner. The results showed that the women paired with someone unattractive were as likely as the singleton to go to the concealing location.  Thus, the women just flaunted; they did not hide.

Arm Candy
Arm Candy

The men come off looking worse than the women. They wanted to show-off the attractive partner and hide the unattractive one. Period. The end. They also flaunted the arm candy more than the women.

However, both men and women had more free hours to meet if paired with an attractive rather than an unattractive partner, and both were motivated to choose a location by the expected result of parading around with someone perceived as beautiful or not. The last result suggests that people are fully aware that a partner’s appearance speaks loudly to those looking.

What you gonna do? What you gonna do with your arm candy?


Flaunt the arm candy.





Winegard B.M., Winegard B., & Geary D.C. (2013). If you’ve got it, flaunt it: Humans flaunt attractive partners to enhance their status and desirability. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72000.


Image Attribution

Arm Candy by Meena Kadri

feathers by Alix