It’s that mysterious spark that has inspired many song writers, artists and films. That instant physical chemistry that is beyond the logical and can be difficult to understand, let alone control. It’s the science of attraction. And, scientists have spent many years researching the different aspects that influence attraction.
Leah Baldwin, a counsellor and social worker at Parham Doctors’ Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, explains why we can be instantly and irresistibly drawn to some people. In addition, she explains how to turn that instant chemistry into a healthy long-term relationship.
The Psychology Behind Attraction
Regardless of whether you’re in the initial “butterflies in the stomach” stages of a romance or 20 years into a relationship, attraction may largely be based on our unconsciousness. It’s whether you identify the other person as a stable, healthy partner for the long haul. Some psychologists say that humans may in fact be hardwired to see traits that help ensure survival as sexy.
For men, on a physical level, this may mean they are attracted to women that look fertile, and healthy. Common traits may include healthy, thick hair, and a smaller waist-to-hip ratio. What we are not so conscious of is that chronic illnesses like diabetes can change the fat distribution making waist-to-hip ratio a good health indicator. This measurement may fluctuate slightly in women with menstruation and generally may be more fertile when it’s lower.
Women Consider More Than Just Physical Appearance
Women are also impressed by physical signs of health. However, research suggests women think about many more factors than men when gauging attractiveness. A woman may find thick hair on a man physically appealing however will also take signs of prosperity or stability into account also. She may look for signs of social intelligence, education level, a luxury apartment, and the ability to speak several languages.
Everyone Has Unique Preferences
Although we may be biologically primed to look for some traits of attraction, everyone has unique preferences. Many factors may interpret how you consider someone’s traits. These include culture, past experience, whether or not you are looking for a serious relationship or casual fling, and more.
Do Certain Physical Traits Matter to Both Men and Women?
According to many studies, there are some simple things anyone can do to up their allure.
1. Stand up straight. No slouching! Experiments have shown that when on a first date, those who revealed open body language (chest up, shoulders back) were significantly more likely of getting a second date.
2. Sleep. Get a full night’s rest. There was a study where people were photographed after being awake for 31 hours and again after a good night’s rest. When these photos were rated by strangers, those with less sleep seemed less healthy and attractive as those who had slept.
3. Being calm. People who get stressed out easily or who have neurotic behaviour, are generally seen as unattractive. This goes for both men and women. This behaviour is also an indicator of a larger likelihood of the relationship breaking up over time.
We’ve all heard of pheromones. These are those odourless molecules your body releases. They send signals (such as attraction) to others. People can detect pheromones through smell even though they are actually without scent. In a study on women, most preferred the scent of sweaty t-shirts from men who were able to produce genetically healthy offspring.
Researchers have identified certain mating chemicals in the animal kingdom. However, in humans it has been much more difficult to find those exact molecules that signal desire. If it were that easy the beauty industry would surely have bottled some pheromones by now.
Attraction is More Than Just Physical
Although instant chemistry may be due to pheromones, how people behave and why are better ways to determine whether a relationship lasts.
Intelligence is considered highly desirable by both sexes, as many studies have shown. Conscientiousness and helpfulness are also qualities that many people hold in high regard. Laziness is one quality that men and women agree is a turn off.
After the initial attraction phase starts to lose intensity, either consciously or unconsciously, you rely on shared values and ideals. This is what will carry a connection to a longer and more meaningful relationship.
Both physical and emotional factors are important and we need a balance. Science will always be able to give us good insight regarding what draws one person to another. But, take that with what you already know. Use your own experiences and understanding of what is important for you long term.