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Why You Check Out Attractive Strangers In Front Of Your GF Or BF

Scientists are telling jealous partners to chill out -- you can't physically stop your wandering eye!

If you catch your significant other checking out someone else, don’t get mad. A new study from the University of Chicago reveals that they just can’t help themselves...up to a point.

Researchers showed college students photos of attractive models, monitoring their gaze using eye-tracking software, and asked them whether they felt "love" or "lust." When it's the former, the students looked at the models' faces. When it's the latter, they looked at...well...where do you think?

Journal Of Psychological Science

The subjects who reported “love at first sight" looked almost exclusively at the face and eyes. Those who reported “lust at first sight” initially looked at the eyes, but then had a much more sustained attention on the body. But here's the interesting part: They couldn't control the reaction, at least temporarily.

"It's very automatic," researcher John T. Cacioppo told MTV News. "[What we discovered] is how quickly it occurs -- it can't be a decision on your part. Your brain is making this decision, but you're not controlling that response."

These results were the same for both men and women. No gender was more or less likely to scope out a hot bod -- everyone is equally compelled to sneak a glance! However, if it's more than a glance (defined as half a second), looking does become a choice.

"You're choosing to inhibit it, you're shutting it down," Dr. Cacioppo said. "If you stare or look again, that's [voluntary]. ... Just because someone glances at another attractive person, it doesn't mean there's...intention to actually pursue anything. ... People are over-reading, misinterpreting that quick glance."

Perhaps the most interesting finding is how people focus on the eyes when they're thinking about love. Obviously it's possible to love someone while also being physically attracted to them, so why the difference in eye contact? It seems to be where we look when sizing up someone's personality -- wondering if they are happy or sad, or how compatible they might be with us. Their body seems to be an afterthought in the equation, which is kind of sweet.

"With sexual desire, there is a rapid glance to the torso," Dr. Cacioppo told us. "If you think you can love someone, it's entirely focused on the face, which I find kind of surprising -- you're doing a lot of reading of the person's mind: What kind of person are they? Is this someone I can get along with? You look at their face, at their eyes."

So if you notice your boyfriend or girlfriend briefly checking out another guy or girl, RELAX, they're just human. But if they keep looking, well, there might be cause for concern — especially if they keep looking up.