by E.C. LaMeaux
Everyone knows the feeling of walking into a room full of friendly faces, and although each person seems nice, open and willing to talk, only one face stands out from the crowd. There may be a lot of physically attractive people in the room, but you can’t seem to take your eyes off of this one particular person. You can’t put your finger on the reasons, but you know there’s a biological force driving you toward a specific type of person.
What causes us to be attracted to one person more than another? Romantic attraction certainly isn’t an exact science, but experts do have some ideas about what qualities attract more than others. Here are a few things you need to know about attraction.
1. Physical attraction is based on instinct
Most people can tell if they’re attracted to someone in the first 90 seconds after they meet. April Masini, who regularly gives relationship advice on ABC Entertainment News and has authored books like Date Out of Your League, suggests that women are naturally attracted to men who exude confidence and passion, and who seem to lead exciting lives. Heterosexual women tend to be physically or sexually attracted to men with traditionally masculine features such as a muscular frame, a square jaw, big nose and small eyes. These physical traits often signify higher levels of testosterone, and are more common in “alpha males.” Alpha males demonstrate a particular set of personality traits as well that include directness, decisiveness, and intensity.
Men are instinctively attracted to particular types of women too. Large breasts and long hair tend to catch men’s eyes, but Dr. Steven Platek, a neuroscientist, psychologist, and head researcher at Georgia Gwinnett College, reports that men’s brains are particularly wired to be attracted to curvy women — especially women with wide hips and skinny waists. Statistically, those women also tend to be the ones who are most fertile.
2. Physical attraction doesn’t necessarily lead to a good relationship
The primal sexual attraction you sometimes feel for certain people can be misleading.
According to Dr. Margaret Paul, a relationship expert who’s appeared on Oprah and has her Ph.D. in psychology, initial physical attraction is a very poor indicator on how well a relationship will work out. According to Dr. Paul, the alpha males to whom many women tend to be more attracted also tend to be more sexually promiscuous.
Many women say that when they’re looking for a long-term relationship partner, they’re actually looking for the opposite of an alpha-male: men who smile more, seem cooperative, and have more feminine features like full lips, wide eyes, and thin eyebrows. Strangely enough, frequent smiles and delicate features tend to be on a man’s list of desired qualities in a long-term mate as well. But guys, watch out! Women cheat, too.
Dr. David Holmes is a psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University and a specialist in the area of personal relationships. He did a study on infidelity and found that 15 percent of women cheat nowadays, a percentage just slightly lower than that of their male counterparts.
3. Platonic attraction is important
In addition to how physically attractive your potential mate is, you also consider how trustworthy he or she seems and how romantic he or she is. For example, does he call when he says he will? Does she answer the phone when you call her? Does he notice little things and give compliments? Does she really listen when you talk about movies or sports you like? You also think about how similar you are to your potential mate. Common interests are often a building block to deep emotional connection.
Having a similar family background may be helpful too. Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, a professor of philosophy and author of The Subtlety of Emotion, suggests that physical proximity, living close to your love interest, can be beneficial to the relationship. Believe it or not, just living in the same city or same neighborhood tends to make people feel more platonic attraction to one another.
4. The unattainable is attractive
We always want what we can’t have. According to Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a professor with the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers and chief scientific advisor to the online dating service Chemistry, someone we consider “out-of-our-league” will always be attractive because they represent an ideal. It may be that we develop these frustrating crushes as a way to force ourselves to improve both our physical appearance and our social status.