- When it comes to love, most people have an idea of what they’re looking for in a partner.
- Good looks, ambition, and a good sense of humour are common qualities that people seek out.
- But there are other factors you’re likely unaware of that play an important part in who you’re attracted to.
- Past experiences, proximity, and biology all have a role in determining who catches our attention and who doesn’t.
When we fall for someone, it’s tough to stop gushing about our new crush’s good looks, sense of humour, and those undeniable love sparks. But why is it that we’re just naturally attracted to some people and not others?
Sure, love is mysterious, but, in some ways, attraction is not. Science actually has an explanation for why we are attracted to certain people and why we don’t give others the time of day.
INSIDER spoke to several experts to find out what it is that draws us towards certain people in terms of our biological makeup. It’s worth noting that much of the research about attraction tends to focus on heterosexual relationships, but obviously that’s not the limit of attraction or love.
Proximity plays a role in who you’re attracted to.
Have you ever noticed that it’s not uncommon to see co-stars from your favourite series or movie dating in real life? Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, for instance, dated on and off for three years off screen after starring together in “The Notebook.” Or maybe you remember that Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck started dating the year after the release of “Daredevil” back in 2003. Why does this seem to be a pattern?
“Mere exposure to someone repeatedly increases the likelihood we will be attracted to them,” J. Celeste Walley-Jean, dean of the School of Graduate Studies and associate professor of psychology at Clayton State University, told INSIDER.
This is backed up by 50 years worth of scientific research that has found that proximity is one of the most powerful indicators of attraction. We simply are drawn to the people we see frequently, which explains why celebrity co-stars end up getting together due to how closely they work with one another on a regular basis.
People can be attracted to those who look healthy and fertile.
Whether we realise it or not, we are biologically attracted to people who look healthy and who look like they can reproduce.
“Heterosexual men are typically attracted to younger women who appear to be of childbearing age and physical appearance,” Walley-Jean told INSIDER. This can explain why you see photos of women in the 1800s wearing bustles to overemphasize their healthy, childbearing hips in order to attract men.
Additionly, research suggests that people are also attracted to those who look healthy.Face symmetry, face structure, and hip-shoulder ratios are all important when it comes to attraction because these physical features indicate good health, according to Live Science.
Our environment teaches us who we should view as attractive.
Beyond physical features, Walley-Jean said our families, peers, and media all play a role in helping us learn what to view as attractive.
For instance, some heterosexual people may seek out partners who share attributes that remind them of their opposite-sex parent because that is what they have always known growing up.
“Heterosexual women have been socialised to seek primarily ‘older’ men who tend to be more financially established and can ‘take care’ of the woman and the subsequent family,” Walley-Jean told INSIDER.
These are just a couple of examples of how we can learn who or what is attractive. There is no single way this learning occurs but everyone is influenced by it, Walley-Jean explained.
Personality traits might impact who you’re attracted to.
Research has shown that people who are kind are seen as more attractive, Daniel Sher, registered clinical psychologist, and professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic said.
In a 2007 study, participants were asked to rate photos of strangers for attractiveness. They were then asked to evaluate the same photos, but this time some of the photos had personality descriptions.
Essentially, the study found that the photos with positive descriptions received the highest ratings for attractiveness, suggesting that certain personality traits do play a factor in judging attractiveness.
Hormones play a role in attraction.
One 2016 study found that men with high levels of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, may be more attracted to women with more “feminine” faces, which they described as meaning big eyes, high eyebrows, and a smaller jaw.
But that’s not the only way hormones play a role in attraction.
In a study of 238 college women published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2007, Steve Gangestad, professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, and his colleagues found that women are attracted to certain men depending on where they are in their cycle.
In mid-cycle, women tended to prefer flings with “caddish” men and on average, fertile women were more interested in short-term relationships with men who came across as cocky.
In comparison, at other points in their cycle, they gravitated toward longer-term relationships with kinder, more conscientious, deferential types, those who have stereotypically good father material.
It’s possible that opposites don’t attract.
Despite the fact that 80% of us believe in the idea that opposites attract, it might be the case that we’re, instead, attracted to those similar to us.
To understand how similarity might impact who a person chooses to be in a relationship with, Donn Byrne, a renowned American psychologist, developed a method known as the “phantom stranger technique.”The procedure begins with participants completing a questionnaire about their attitudes on a variety of topics, such as the use of nuclear weapons. Next, they take part in a “person-perception” phase, where they evaluate a person based on their responses to the same questionnaire.By manipulating the degree of similarity between a person and a “phantom stranger,” Byrne was able to conclude that participants reported feeling more attracted to people who held similar attitudes. In fact, the greater the degree of similarity, the greater the attraction and liking.
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