"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.
Among the fish, the researchers also found that when the preferred male prevailed, the female showed increased excitation in parts of the brain associated with reproduction, as well as some of the brain's pleasure centers.
"In this case, she is turning on her body to get ready to physically mate with this male that she previously chose," Desjardins said. The female also appears to be feeling some sort of pleasurable stimulus in her body, she said.
Desjardins said that while humans may reason beyond the sort of gut reactions displayed in the female cichlids, the human version of the brain regions involved in the fishes' decisions probably play a major role in the snap judgments men and women make.
"You may not know immediately why you are attracted to a certain person, for example," she said. "But it is these sorts of unconscious internal reflexes that we have that are shared with all vertebrates, including fish, that make us feel one way or another before we've even had time to think about it."
These same areas of the brain also probably play a part in other types of reflexive responses, such as a mother's instinct to protect her child.
Desjardins and her colleagues conducted their experiments using a fish tank split into three sections by transparent barriers. In the middle section, they put the female, with a male in each tank on either side of her. The males were always of comparable size and weight as similar as possible.
For two days in a row, for 20 minutes a day, they placed the same
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