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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011 Apr;100(4):621-9. doi: 10.1037/a0021749.

Forbidden fruit: inattention to attractive alternatives provokes implicit relationship reactance.

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Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0044, USA.


Being inattentive to attractive relationship alternatives can enhance relationship well-being. The current investigation, however, demonstrates that implicitly preventing people from attending to desirable relationship alternatives may undermine, rather than bolster, the strength of that person's romantic relationship. Consistent with the notion of "forbidden fruit," we found that subtly limiting people's attention to attractive alternatives reduced relationship satisfaction and commitment and increased positive attitudes toward infidelity (Experiment 1), increased memory for attractive relationship alternatives (Experiment 2), and increased attention to attractive alternatives (Experiment 3). Findings suggest that although attention to attractive alternatives can harm one's relationship, situations that implicitly limit one's attention to alternatives can, rather ironically, increase the temptation of alternatives and undermine relationship well-being.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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