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

Koyo Nakamura, Shihoko Arai, Hideaki Kawabata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2327-2338
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Nov 1


  • Attention
  • Facial attractiveness
  • Passionate love
  • Rapid serial visual presentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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