Updated: Jun 22
Is it the way your significant other touches you? Or maybe it’s the color of their hair? Whatever it may be that draws you to someone, there are many factors that play a role in sexual attraction. Some of these variables you may have considered before while others play a silent role!
Variable number 1: Affect/Mood. We tend to like people who make us feel good about ourselves. With that in mind, those who generally make you feel happy might seem attractive to you because of the way they positively make you feel. And those who have a negative effect on your mood you may tend to find not as attractive. A recent study showed that males viewed women who portrayed the emotional expression of happiness on their face as sexually attractive. Our moods can make all the difference. By being in a positive mood you may view someone you’re just meeting for the first time as attractive. But beware; don’t let your positive mood cloud your judgment! Sometimes the person you’re finding attractive may have nothing to do with the state of your current mood, but either way, we are more likely to like someone while in a positive state.
Variable number 2: Propinquity. Ever wondered why you develop an attraction to people who are in close geographic proximity to you? Bonny Albo, a dating expert, defined the term Law of Attraction as “to be in close physical proximity to one another.” When you become familiar with the same face over and over again there’s a greater likelihood of having the opportunity to interact with that person more frequently in which attraction is bound to develop.
Variable number 3: Similarity. Do opposites really attract? Typically, we are more attracted to those who are similar to us. Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeév explained that we even tend to marry people whose attitudes and values are similar to our own. He also stated that sometimes differences attract, but only when there is enough room for “complementary differences.” Therefore, we are more likely to stay with people in which the similarities are more overpowering than the differences. Being similar, however, is not adequate enough to make a relationship secure. It is however, a defining reasoning that suffices as to why we find ourselves attracted to others.
“When a desirable romantic partner becomes less available, we find ourselves more attracted to that person.”
Variable number 4: Scarcity. Have you ever viewed someone as more attractive when they were less available to you? Or maybe you’ve thought people became more attractive as the night went on and it was getting closer to closing time at the bar. This all has to do with scarcity! This means when a desirable romantic partner becomes less available, we find ourselves more attracted to that person. Also, when the opportunity to meet someone is scarce, your view of attractiveness increases. In one study, male’s who were not in a relationship showed that their perception of attraction to women increased as the bar crept closer to closing time. So if you go out to a bar and have yet to feel attracted to anyone after an hour, don’t give up! You might just find yourself attracted to someone right as the bar is about to close.
Variable number 5: Physiological arousal. When people’s physiological arousal is already heightened when meeting someone, they are more likely to consider the person attractive. One study portrayed this attraction in which males were approached on either a fear-arousing suspension bridge or a non-fear arousing bridge by a female interviewer. Of the men who were physiologically aroused, 18 of the 23 accepted the female interviewer’s number in which later, 9 out of the 18 called. Whereas, those who were on a non-fear arousing bridge, only 16 out of the 22 men accepted her phone number and out of the 16 men only 2 of them called afterwards. So if you are looking to meet your soul mate, try scouting them out at the gym. Your chances of attraction are much higher when both of you are already physiologically aroused!
Variable number 6: Neurotransmitters and hormones. There are actually chemicals at use when we feel attracted to someone. Higher levels of dopamine and oxytocin are reasons as to why we may feel attracted to someone. This is because scientifically, they specifically enhance attraction. Depression expert, Nancy Schimelpfening explains this benefit; for example, when you fall in love dopamine is responsible for “all those feel-good emotions.” Peter Pressman at About Health also discusses how oxytocin plays a role in attraction by stating that the hypothalamus secretes oxytocin when we experience lust.
Tracy, J. L., & Beall, A. T. (2011). Happy guys finish last: The impact of emotion expressions on sexual attraction. Emotion, 11(6), 1379-1387.
Ben-Zeév, A. (2009, February 20). Does Being Similar to You Make Me More Attractive, Darling? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-the-name-love/200902/does-being-similar-you-make-me-more-attractive-darling
Scott F. Madey, Melanie Simo, David Dillworth, David Kemper, Anne Toczynski & Althea Perella(2010). They Do Get More Attractive at Closing Time, But Only When You Are Not in a Relationship, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 18:4, 387-393, DOI: 10.1207/s15324834basp1804_2
Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,30(4), 510-517, doi: 10.1037/h0037031
Schimelpfening, N. (2016, June 29). Can SSRIs Make You Fall Out of Love? Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/can-ssris-make-you-fall-out-of-love-3969187
Pressman, P. (2018, March 12). Where Is Love Located in the Brain? Retrieved from https://verywell.com/the-brain-in-love-2488713