Attraction isn’t something you think twice about. We don’t necessarily see it coming all the time because it feels automatic and doesn’t really require extra effort. In this way, attraction can also be unpredictable. Sometimes, it leaves you dumbfounded: why in the world is that person so attractive to you? Why not another? What is the psychology of attraction?
With the rise of social media and dating apps, it’s no wonder that even psychology has taken a keen interest in the field of attraction, dating, and relationships.
Attraction is feeling as if your attention is being pulled to someone, and to a certain extent, desiring to be near that person, or wanting to spend more time with them. While attraction seems like an abstract occurrence that can’t be measured, psychologists have discovered ways to study it.
According to a psychologist named Abraham Maslow, humans have a pyramid of needs. This pyramid places certain human needs in a hierarchy. The order (from bottom to top) goes as follows: physiological needs (like eating, sleeping), safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization, or reaching your full potential as an individual. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, if a bottom level is not fulfilled, it’s impossible for an individual to reach or satisfy the next level of needs.
Whether or not you agree with what Maslow says, it is important to pay attention to the fact that he addresses social well-being as a fundamental human need. Thus, attraction can be seen as a means of people trying to fulfill that need for an intimate social relationship. Although it might not seem like it, the psychology of attraction plays a significant role in our lives–perhaps more than we think and give it credit for.
According to “The Attraction Doctor”, attraction has three core elements:
The first element is physical attraction. We’re all guilty of checking someone out, by observing the physical qualities of that person, including how they look, or what they’re wearing. Usually, checking someone out is something that’s done almost unconsciously, but interestingly enough, it has a significant impact. What we perceive at first glance, the first impression, leaves a deep impact on how we view the person. A first impression can be difficult to shake off, and can affect the lens in which you view a person and their actions.
The second element is psychological attraction. This can include personality, and the way that you establish emotional connections with people. This type of attraction is not only important in the initial dating stage of the relationship, but it remains as a foundation in the way that you converse with your partner. If you are psychologically healthy in the relationship, you are presently engaged with them. It’s not just physical distance in a relationship that can become a strain, but psychological distance as well.
The third element is, unsurprisingly, behavioral attraction, which serves as the middleman between psychological and physical attraction. Your body language, and how you carry yourself in the presence of the person that you are attracted to, plays a role in the way that they might receive you. Facing away from a person and placing a significant amount of physical distance from them in a conversation can be deterring and off-putting in any context. Show your interest in them by facing them, getting closer while maintaining a respectful distance, and doing something as simple as making eye contact.
Another aspect of behavioral attractiveness is touch. Researchers found that touch has the ability to strengthen relationships. However, it requires careful consideration as to how and how much you do it. Too much can be seen as overbearing or creepy, while too little can give the impression that you’re not at all interested. As you progress deeper into a relationship, incorporate touch into your relationship by starting from the basics, and taking it step by step, keeping the other person’s attitude and reaction towards it in mind.
Countless romance movies start out with two individuals that are polar opposites despising one another, and end with them falling deeply in love. Unfortunately, a psychological study found that contrary to this romantic idea, for the most part, opposites don’t attract. They found that for the most part, people prefer to surround themselves with others that are like-minded.
Although it may seem exciting or refreshing at first to be with someone who is able to keep you on your toes, keep in mind that things can become strained in the long-term. Unless you enter a committed relationship expecting or wanting to be challenged, it will likely be difficult to remain patient with someone who is the polar opposite of you.
Another study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that we are more attracted to people that are closer in proximity to us. They looked at relationships formed in housing units within the dorms, and found that there were many friendships in each housing unit. The implications for these findings are that relationships are more likely to form between people that are close in physical proximity. You can imagine that it would be difficult to form a relationship with someone when you do not see one another frequently, or if your social circles do not overlap.
The amount of articles and tips that there are on how to “improve” attractiveness are far and wide. You can dress fashionably, get better at makeup, talk differently – the list goes on. But at the base of these tweaks in your physical, psychological, and behavioral attractiveness is confidence. No matter how many times you change what you wear or how you look, if you are not confident in your identity and your skin, then people will easily be able to see through all of the masks you try to put on.
A study found that women in particular find confidence in partners highly desirable. Another study found that having confidence is associated with having better performance on tasks. The list goes on. Confidence is key in many aspects of being successful socially, professionally, and personally.
It does take time to “learn” how to have confidence. For some, it might mean accepting that there are some things about yourself that you can’t necessarily change. For others, it might mean complimenting yourself more, rather than putting yourself down. However, once you do develop healthy self-confidence, how you look or how you act won’t really matter, because ultimately, your ability to be yourself will draw others in like a magnet.
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