Attraction may seem pretty straightforward. But according science,
attraction is actually more complicated than you think.
As Nick Hobson, psychologist and Director of Science at
PsychologyCompass, tells Bustle, attraction isn't as simple as thinking, "They're good looking. I want to date them." That's because the "mind-brain doesn't do these sort of isolated one-off calculations," he says.
psychology tends to over-complicate things. "It pulls in multiple sources of information — most unconscious and most unrelated to the person we're seeing — and it uses all that to arrive at a final conclusion," he says. For instance, when you see someone relatively "attractive" for the first time, so many different thoughts will go through your head whether you realize it or not. Like, what are they wearing? Is the weather nice? Where did the initial interaction take place? What's my mood? Does the person look familiar? Did I just get a raise at work? Did my dog die this week?
"In other words, what most people don't know is that by the time we convince ourselves that 'I want to date that person,' there's been a whole bunch of little brain processes ticking away in the background," Hobson says. More often than not, we don't even know this is happening.
Because attraction is pretty weird and complex, here are some interesting and sometimes confusing things that make people attracted to you, according to science.
Watching A Horror Movie With You
One interesting theory on attraction is called the "misattribution of emotions." According to Hobson, putting someone into a "high energized emotional state" where their blood is pumping, sweating like crazy, and they can't seem to breathe, will make them more attracted to the person they're with than if they met that same person in a more calm or relaxed state. It's why doing something scary with someone like
watching a horror movie on a date can make them seem more attractive. "The reason this happens is because we're pretty bad at identifying the correct source of our physiological and emotional arousal," Hobson says. "In such cases, we incorrectly believe that the excitability we're experiencing is because of the 'energy' in the interaction with a potential partner." You're more likely to take those reactions as a sign that there's a real "love at first sight" type of connection, so you're more likely to pursue things with that person.
Getting A Rush Of Anxiety When They First Meet You
Similar to the misattribution of emotions theory, Hobson says there's also the
anxiety-sexual arousal link. "This says that the more anxious a person feels during an initial interaction of meeting a potential partner, the more attracted they are to them and the greater chance of a real romantic relationship forming down the line," he says. Again, feeling a sense of anxiety around someone you see for the first time can make you feel like it's "love at first sight," so you're more likely to take it as a sign that this person could be someone special.
The "ovulatory shift hypothesis" suggests that reaching peak fertility will have an effect on who you find attractive. "Women who are partnered with 'less attractive' men, find more 'conventionally attractive' men particularly more attractive when they're most fertile, during ovulation," Hobson says. It all comes down to basic biology. Whether someone is aware of it or not, if they are attracted to men, they may be more likely to find more
"masculine" types more attractive during ovulation than other times of the month. Additionally, men attracted to women are also unconsciously more attracted to women during ovulation than before or after it. Although researchers aren't exactly sure why it happens, one study did find that men found that ovulating women's scents were "sweeter" and thus more attractive, than those who were not ovulating.
propinquity effect" says that we're more likely to be attracted to people and form close relationships with them if they are physically located near us. So you could be going about your daily routine and not realize that someone who sees you every day may be attracted to you. The interesting part is, you don't even have to say a word. Just seeing your familiar face every day will somehow have a way of drawing them in. "It happens because once we bump into someone, even if it means simply glancing at them, the next time we see them or talk to them, the more our brains 'like' that sense of familiarity," Hobson says. "We then take that feeling of the familiar and convince ourselves that the pleasantness it induces within us is because of the attraction itself." So you pretty much don't have to do anything extraordinary. That sense of familiarity can also make that person more comfortable to start a conversation, form a friendship, or even ask you out on a date.
There's Something About You That Reminds Them Of Their Parents
This one may seem initially weird and confusing, but it does make sense. A 2017 study published in the journal
Evolution and Human Behavior found that gay men and heterosexual women in particular were attracted to body types that resembled their dad's body type. This was especially true for women who had positive relationships with their fathers. According to the study, this has to do with the psychological phenomenon of imprinting or "bonding" in humans. If you had a strong bond with your parent growing up, you're more likely to look for a partner who reminds you of your parent.
A 2016 study published in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted a study on attraction using a speed dating-type of scenario. They observed the non-verbal behaviors of both men and women during each "date" and compared that to those who were picked for a second date. People who showed "expansive body language" such as a good posture were 76 percent more likely to get asked out on another date. Having bad posture or closed off body langage (i.e. arms crossed), gave people the impression that you are closed off and uninterested.
Your Love Of Fruits And Vegetables
As you know, your natural
smell plays a role in attraction. According to a 2017 study from Macquarie University in Australia, it was found that women were more attracted to the odors of men who ate more fruits and vegetables than those who ate refined carbs like pasta and bread. Apparently those who ate more of a plant-based diet had better smelling sweat than those who did not.
You may think you know how attraction works, but it's not just about looks or personality. So take comfort in the fact that there are so many other random things that can cause someone to be attracted to you because attraction is a lot more complex than you probably think.