And men are willing to spend more on attractive women.

INSTORE engagedcoupleMen are willing to purchase more showy, expensive engagement rings when they imagine themselves with an attractive woman rather than a woman with average looks, according to a new study.

Appearance also plays a role for women but, in contrast to men, they are more likely to select an expensive ring with a big stone when they are partnered with a less attractive man, researchers found.

The research, in Springer's journal Evolutionary Psychological Science, was conducted by Jaime Cloud and Madalyn Taylor of Western Oregon University.

But it was all kind of hypothetical.

The researchers presented 590 American participants, who were on average 30 years old, with a photograph and some brief information about a member of the opposite sex. Participants had to imagine themselves as the boyfriend or girlfriend of the depicted individual, who was pre-rated to be attractive or unattractive. Women had to choose the smallest ring they were willing to settle for offered by the target man. In turn, the male participants had to indicate the size of ring they would buy for their imaginary girlfriend.

"The results support the notion that men are willing to purchase larger, more expensive engagement rings when imagining themselves mated to a more attractive woman," according to a press release from Springer.

The study corroborates previous research on mate attraction tactics, which showed that men use symbols of financial success to attract desirable mates, according to the release.

So, what can you do with this information? Honestly, we’re not sure.

Before you go busting out 3-carat engagement rings for every couple where one partner isn’t quite as attractive as the other, remember, this was only a hypothetical exercise and, in real life, there are many, many other factors that influence engagement ring purchases. In fact, during the course of the experiment, the participants were also asked about the cost and quality of their own engagement rings. This was done to explore whether the experimental findings would hold true in real life.

Not unsurprisingly, the researchers were unable to find any consistent pattern.

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