February 7th, 2011
Look closely at your crush, spouse or significant other. Does he or she have symmetrical features? A strong jaw? Or even look a little like yourself? The psychology of human attraction is a fascinating field to study, and depends on all kinds of factors, including reproduction, positive association, and more. Keep reading to learn how and why we find certain people so good to look at.
- We love symmetry: Symmetrical features aren’t just aesthetically pleasing, they symbolize good genes, healthy development, fertility and a prime mating companion. Those with better symmetry will most likely produce offspring who are also stronger and more immune to gene manipulations or alterations.
- Women with prominent eyes are attractive to men: As you’ll see as you keep reading, most of what we find attractive has to do with potential reproduction and mating. In this case, women with shorter and more petite chins and foreheads means they have more estrogen (since estrogen limits bone growth in these areas). That shape makes the eyes look more prominent, a trait that men generally find attractive.
- Men with a larger jaw and prominent brow are more attractive to women: Men have the opposite face shape, usually. A stronger, more prominent jaw and brow equates more testosterone, and women find these characteristics attractive.
- Women like powerful, protective men: During menstruation, women are more attractive to men who would give them healthy, genetically blessed children, should they every mate. This means men who have dominant, powerful and protective characteristics, both physically and behaviorally.
- Hourglass shape: Women can stop aspiring to look like the androgynously built models on catwalks and embrace their curves, as long as their waist to hip ratio is ideal. Men supposedly find women with waist to hip ratio of 0.7 to be most attractive, no matter what her weight is. Having an hourglass shape is an indicator of a woman’s reproductive capabilities (allegedly).
- The younger, the better: Humans are attracted to neoteny, “the retention of juvenile features like large eyes and baby-smooth skin in adults,” Time.com explains. When tested, men and women found 15-year-old girls to be more attractive than 19-year-old women.
- Women like a guy who makes them laugh, guys like a woman who laughs at his jokes: Women really mean it when they say that they just want a guy who makes them laugh. A 2005 study found that women were attracted to men who made them laugh, while men found women attractive when they laughed at their jokes.
- We’re attracted to people we see regularly: Proximity plays a role in attraction, so if you’ve got a crush, find a way to bump into him or her regularly. People are more likely to hook up (even for the long haul) with someone they’re physically close to, in class, at work, friends, or neighbors.
- Gay men go either way: There’s no straight rule for what gay men find attractive, although they usually favor one of two types. Socially speaking, Time notes that gay men either favor “guys who look as if they are in their teens, [or] guys who look as if they could be your dad.”
- We like people who look similar to us: Don’t fret if your significant other is tall while you’re short, or is even a completely different race than you. Even similarities between lung volume, ear lobe length and metabolic rates have been found among couples, causing scientists to believe that humans like picking mates who resemble themselves. Another study even found that we’re more likely to stay married to and abstain from child abuse if we end up with a mate with a similar genetic makeup.
- Birth control pills may affect attraction: This next item is still inconclusive, but we thought it was worth considering. Because the type of characteristics that women find attractive in a man waver so dramatically depending on her monthly cycle, scientists are starting to think that women who take birth control pills — which control hormones more steadily — may have an affect on what — or who — they’re attracted to. And on the other hand, scientists discovered that men are generally more attracted to women when they’re most fertile. But if they’re altering their fertility — never quite reaching peak condition — men might find them less attractive than if they were not taking birth control.
- Romantic love might be more important than sex: Beyond symmetry, sex, reproductive potential and proximity, true love is still a powerful influence in forming overall attraction. Scientists who took brain scans of people newly in love found “more activity related to love than sex…” reports LiveScience.com.
- Reciprocal liking: This theory is in direct opposition to unrequited love. Reciprocal liking means that we’re attracted to the person who likes us back. We’re flattered that they like us, which makes us feel good, which makes us associate positive feelings with that person.
- We want a mate who resembles our parents: You’ve probably heard that girls just want to grow up and marry someone who reminds them of their fathers. But the same is probably true for men, too. We might be attracted to people who look like our parents because we look like our parents (see #10).
- Positive association plays a role: Related to #13, this idea is based on findings that we make emotional, irrational associations with people based on what we’re feeling at that time, even if it has nothing to do with that person. For instance, you might think a guy is cute when you see him in line at airport security — when you’re frustrated and tired — but you won’t be as attracted to him as the guy you play kickball with on Thursdays — when you’re more relaxed and happy.
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