The Science of Attraction
Why do humans have a natural desire to be paired with others? What is it that makes us attracted to another? Does our attraction really last or is it doomed to fade away? Many are perplexed by the mysterious science of attraction.
Flirting – It’s a Science
One way our attraction can be identified is through the way we flirt (Psychology Today). When women flirt, they typically try to put a spotlight on themselves. They arch their backs, thrust their chests, and sway their hips. Men, on the other hand, try to assert their dominance by puffing out their chest to impress a woman. Flirting can be a major science when deciding if someone is interested in you or not.
The Dinner Date
Another common courting practice is known as “courtship feeding. Humans refer to this as the “dinner date,” but can be practiced among all species. It involves the male bringing the female offerings of food before asking for sexual favors. Men can establish themselves as providers, and enhance their desirability to a mate.
The Game of Attraction
There are several factors that draw us to another person. According to sexologist, John Money, the determinants of what arouses you sexually or drives you to fall for one person over another can be defined as lovemaps. Uncovering these factors might help us begin to understand why we are willing to act so foolishly for the sake of love. Our attraction, however, can be as basic as the way we smell. In fact, women are particularly susceptible to men’s sexual musk during periods of ovulation. Naturally, this increases chances of reproduction. Reproduction, therefore, becomes the core driving factor that explains the most basic reasoning for attraction. Men desire to mate with women who will produce strong offspring, and women want to find a man who can protect and provide for her children. The game of attraction, however, is not always this simple.
Chemistry vs. Romantic Love
If all men and women have an innate need to be with someone, then why are there instances where someone can have amazing romantic chemistry, but not much to say in a conversation? Chemistry.com explains that there are two separate systems that control these different aspects in a relationship. One system controls our sexual cravings, while the other takes over our romantic love. These systems do not always coincide, which explains why you can be mentally attracted to someone, but not physically (or vice versa).
Other uncomfortable situations that attraction can sometimes put us in include when one person is madly in love, while the other feels nothing at all. This often occurs through misinterpreted flirting signals. A person will experience continued attraction if they believe that their advances are being reciprocated. Therefore, it is important that your politeness does not come off as interest in another if you experience no real attraction towards that person.
Researcher, Helen Fisher, takes a different approach to attraction and analyzes brain scans of people experiencing new love. With this data, four biological indicators identify the science of how people attract or repel others:
The Explorer is a creative, thrill-seeker type who is driven by the “excitement” dopamine hormone. They are spontaneous and very curious about their surroundings.
The Builder is a very literal and fact oriented thinker. They typically have a small, but close group of friends and prefer to follow social norms. They are driven by a more level-headed hormone, serotonin.
The Negotiator has a very nurturing and compassionate side. They are very intuitive and stirred by the female hormone, estrogen. Their idealistic attitude makes them a suitable match for all relationship types.
The Director is quite direct and good with understanding all things mechanical or architectural. They are moved by the male hormone, testosterone. In relationships, the Director is better matched with nurture and support their intense drive (like the Negotiator). They additionally would not do well with someone who is complacent with a simpler lifestyle (like the Builder).
Attraction psychologist, M. Farouk Radwan, additionally lists other factors that are commonly considered in the realm of attraction:
Physical Attraction is the first thing that draws us to someone. Even though appearance isn’t everything, it is the driving force that makes us want to get to know someone better.
Physical Proximity indicates that relationships can more easily grow with those who we see most, like neighbors or people you work with.
Familiarity reveals that we are attracted to people who share common beliefs or values. As you become more familiar with a person, there is a better chance that you will be more attracted to them.
Culture and Attractiveness creates a strong connection with our upbringing and our perceived attractiveness. In other words, the way we are raised shapes how we view attraction.
Complementary Traits are important because it shows how others can meet your needs. It determines if someone fits the mold of what you are looking for in a partner.
Unfortunately, the natural attraction that men and women experience towards one another is not eternal. Eventually the initial infatuation does fade somewhere between 18 months and 3 years. The absence of this romantic love in a relationship is often what drives couples to part ways, or explains why some couples decide to practice polygamy. The practice of polygamy is actually more rational in terms of biology or Darwin’s theory. It allows men to spread their genes and gives women more reproductive benefits.
The lack of passion in a relationship is also a major factor that leads couples to cheat on their significant other. Even though there are less motives for women to cheat, a Cosmopolitan survey in the early 1980s said 54 percent of women had participated in at least one affair, and 72 percent of men had admitted to being adulterous.
With these high adultery statistics, it is easy to see why people get divorced. It also explains why divorces usually occur within the first four years of a marriage. After the newness of a couple wears off, a person might feel trapped in their relationship or look to other people when wanting to experience the feeling of romantic love again.
Instead of viewing fading sparks as a bad thing, however, it is actually a good indicator that your relationship is transforming. Constantly being in that love-struck stage can be exhausting. There are an increasing number of benefits by learning from an evolving relationship versus becoming addicted to that “high” you experience in a new love.
Our skewed perception of love can stem from the fact that media only sells the most exciting parts of love. A study by Barna Group reveals the changing mentality younger generations have on divorce, “Interviews with young adults suggest they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility.”
The way the media portrays sexuality is another problematic issue. There is this unspoken rule in most movies and television shows that sex should be this perfect, fantastic experience for both parties. The way sex is portrayed in pornography, for example, can give couples unrealistic expectations for their sexual performance. It becomes more about the act itself instead of the sexual partnership that is involved.
The science of attraction may primarily be ruled by our innate biological desires, but it important to be aware of any outside forces that can influence the way we perceive attraction. Don’t let unrealistic, faulty notions of attraction prevent you from finding someone who is genuinely meant for you.
Alexandra Zuccaro is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A in English. She a strong interest in journalism and hopes to pursue a career in the field.