Symmetry, Scent, and Sex; the Science of Human Attraction.

What brings us together? What subtle and subconscious cues spark interest, attraction, and eventually love connections between human beings? What exactly is the science behind our attraction and sexual desirability? Luckily, human biology and evolutionary psychology provides us with some fascinating answers.

What brings us together? What subtle and subconscious cues spark interest, attraction, and eventually love connections between human beings?  After all, there are more than 7 billion on the people, so some insanely powerful magnetic force must be working overtime to attract people as sexual partners. But what exactly is the science behind our attraction and  desirability? Luckily, human biology and evolutionary psychology provides us with some fascinating answers.

Surely, what we find attractive must differ greatly all across the world since people are so different and cultural, religious, and societal norms and perceptions are so varied, right? Wrong. In fact, for the most part, attraction is a primal instinct, an unwitting response to subconscious impulses that are universal.

  • The basis of attractiveness for everyone is facial symmetry. It’s been demonstrated again and again in experiments that men and women all around the world view someone with a symmetrical face more attractive, probably because we’re hardwired to believed that they have better genetics and therefore are healthier, stronger, and will make better mates.
  • For that same reason, people who wear sunglasses are often perceived as more attractive than the same person without them because the glasses make their face look more symmetrical.
  • Scientists believe that people may look more attractive when you’re drunk because an inebriated person is less likely to notice facial asymmetry.
  • One of the other most profound attractive impulses is scent. Called pheromones, they are the scent-bearing chemicals that act as dominant attractors for both men and women, though there are differences between the sexes.
  • Research shows that women are attracted to androstenol, a chemical found in fresh male sweat. But the presence of too much sweat produces androstenone, found in male body odor, which is diminishes attraction for females.
  • Meanwhile, when women start or stop birth control, the change in hormones can change or magnify which pheromones they find attractive.
  • Research shows that women tend to date men who smell like their fathers.
  • Interestingly enough, according to a 2011 study, men feel a decrease in sexual attraction when they smell the scent of tears.
  • According to Cosmopolitan magazine, if a woman wears a blend of lavender and pumpkin scents it’s most attractive to men, and women find the smell of cucumbers or black licorice most attractive on a man.
  • Men with beards are also perceived as more attractive by women, as well as more potent, responsible, healthy, active, trustworthy, and likely to be better parents. Of course there is no real basis for this perception, except that men with beards were seen as stronger and having higher testosterone from an evolutionary perspective.
  • However, studies show that male bosses do not glean those same perceptions or traits from their male employees with beards, showing that these qualities were just about attractiveness and not merit.
  • Even our voices change when we talk to a person we find attractive or desirable. In fact, women’s voices pitch much higher when they are around someone they just like, but their voices go lower when they are around someone that incites a sense of physiological arousal.
  • This is the same case for men, who’s voices pitch lower when speaking to a woman they target as a potential mate, and for good reason, because women find men with lower voices more attractive.
  • We all like to be sweet talked by someone we’re attracted to, but did you know it actually matters where we’re sweet-talked? No, I don’t mean like in bed, under a romantic waterfall, or on a gondola in Venice, I’m referring to the science that hearing emotional words like “I love you” have a stronger impact when spoken in the left ear versus the right. In fact, recall was significantly higher for “sweet nothings” heard (even when whispered) in the left ear (64.43%) than the right ear (58.15%).
  • Believe it or not, color even plays a factor in attraction. When women wear red or other warm colors, it boosts their sexual desirability with men. And when men or women wear red or bright colors, they’re perceived as more attractive potential mates.
  • We’d assume that everyone is more attractive when they smile, right? Not so fast, as smiling women are viewed more attractive, but men who don’t smile as much are actually perceived as more attractive than men who do smile frequently.
  • In other studies, women rated men more attractive if other women were smiling at him! That’s consistent with the trend that women are more likely to find a man desirable if other women do, too.
  • A person’s personality also plays a sometimes-surprising role in attraction, too. In a 2014 study, it was determined that a subject’s positive personality traits increased their perceived facial attractiveness. Called the “Halo Effect”, this means we are more attracted to people who we think are good.
  • How else does personality play a role? Some studies reveal that a person who is confident, outgoing, and makes the first move is seen as more desirable, but a study in 1966 at the University of Minnesota found that there was really no correlation between attractiveness ratings and whether that person was an introvert or an extrovert.
  • What are some other universal truths about attraction that span all cultures, countries, and even eras in history?
  • Aside from just facial symmetry, men are more attracted to women with an hourglass physique, while women like a man with wide shoulders, a broad chest and arms, and a symmetrical frame. Of course this goes back to evolutionary standards, as women were seen as good reproductive partners with that frame and men good hunters/protectors.
  • In just about every culture on earth and throughout history, men found younger women more desirable than older ones, probably an evolutionary preference to ensure reproduction.
  • On the other hand, women in most cultures have – and still do – find older men more attractive than younger ones. Researchers attribute this to the fact that older men will be more willing and capable mates and fathers, as well as have significantly more resources.
  • It’s not just a stereotype that women in most societies value a man with more wealth and resources, as numerous studies demonstrate this. Meanwhile, women do not appear more or less attractive to men if they are rich or poor.
  • Men really do subconsciously like a woman who looks like their mother, as studies show that men are more attracted to women whose bone structure is similar to their own mom. Researchers call this “sexual imprinting,” and it does manifest itself with the daughter-father dynamic, though in slightly different ways, more based on smell and age.
  • Studies into online dating reveal that women prioritize a man’s height as a determiner of attraction, while men are most concerned with a woman’s weight.
  • Women find a man with a big belly less attractive, probably because big guts are correlated with low testosterone levels, which means they might not be healthy, strong, or good mates or reproductive partners.
  • What other fascinating factors play into attraction, desirability, and sex?
  • Apparently, women like to be kissed on the neck a whole lot, and will find their partner who does so extremely desirable. Surveys reveal that other than on the lips, 96% of women say they like to be kissed on the neck and find it attractive. In contrast, only 10% of men report the same numbers. While the data speaks volumes, researchers still can’t figure out why this is so from an evolutionary or behavioral standpoint.
  • Just kissing someone will make you feel more attracted to them. That’s because kissing releases high levels of oxycotin, the pleasure hormone from the brain, causing them to perceive their partner’s face as more attractive.
  • Staring into a stranger’s eyes forms a bond and increases levels of attraction and desirability, even if two people have never talked.
  • Saving my favorite for last, according to Psychology Today, a man’s likelihood of obtaining a woman’s phone number increases by 300% if he has a dog with him.

 

 

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