Want to give your memory a boost? Trying gazing at a good-looking person of the opposite sex — if you're a man, at least. Two experiments conducted as part of a study published in December 2015 show that guys who look briefly at an image of an attractive woman fare better in memory tests than men who gaze at more "average" faces, Pacific Standard reports.
"The fact that highly attractive members of the opposite sex can make people lose all their mental faculties is nearly a comedic cliché," write the researchers in Evolutionary Psychology. "Yet, demonstrating desirable mental traits, such as a robust memory, would be helpful for attracting a mate."
In the first experiment, 58 psychology students heard a story while glimpsing 10 opposite-sex faces for seven seconds each; half saw faces rated as highly attractive (6.16 on a 7-point scale) or average (2.55 on that same scale). Quizzed after, men who saw pretty faces better recalled the story, while women's memory was hardly affected.
The next test split 123 students into groups that saw images before and after hearing the same story — with one group seeing attractive faces before and average after, one vice versa, and one seeing only average ones. Again, those who saw attractive faces first fared better, though this was less true among women.
The pictures "are likely to have primed a short-term mating goal," the researchers say.
The studies seem to conflict with earlier research showing that men's cognitive performance declines when socializing — or even thinking about socializing — with a woman, reported Pacific Standard in 2012. But as lead researcher Michael Baker points out, glancing at an image is far less stressful than actually socializing. Or as New York puts it, "Ha-ha, men. Ha-ha."
(In related news, here's what daily pot use does to your memory.)