Liza Minnelli once sang, “Everybody loves a winner,” and according to researchers at Stanford University, Liza might have been on to something.
The scientists found that a male African cichlid fish may fall out of favor with his female paramour if she witnesses him losing a fight with another male. “It is the same as if a woman were dating a boxer and saw her potential mate get the crap beat out of him really badly,” says Julie Desjardins, a postdoctoral researcher in biology at Stanford. “She may not consciously say to herself, ‘Oh, I’m not attracted to this guy anymore because he’s a loser,’ but her feelings might change anyhow.” Desjardins notes that this situation is even worse for fish than for people. “In this fish species, fighting means a lot,” she says. “When you fight with a neighbor, you not only physically fight with them, you are also displaying your abilities and your prowess to everyone watching.”
Humans can take comfort, however, because unlike these piscine pugilists, we have enough cognitive ability to reason our way out of instances of doubt about our partners. Might I suggest a nice dinner to revitalize your relationship? Just don’t order the fish.
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