Attraction … the gravity between lovers. The force field in which images of the perfect lover project. But what triggers this love spark? Magic? Faith? Destiny?
And is it really so unexplainable? Here are the top 6 reasons for falling in love.
#1. Physical appearance
Ah, I bet you didn’t expect this one right? Just kidding. They don’t call it ‘love at first sight’ for nothing. Both sexes look for signs of good health. They have the same goal, producing healthy offspring, but their motivations differ. Men look for signs of fertility, women look for signs of strong genes.
The effect is bigger for men than for women. A good evolutionary strategy for men was speed (quantity) since his parental investment could be low. For the women, on the other hand, caution was preferred. (quality)
After all, she had to carry the baby for 9 months, with a high risk of dying with childbirth in majority of our history. So women needed more time to asses if a man would be a good father.
We feel close to people we are … close to. The more we see something, the more we like start to like it. This is the ‘near exposure-effect’. When we see people several times we label them as comfortable and safe, because we can start to predict their behavior.
This is why it is so important to hang around at places where it’s easier to meet like-minded people. You ‘ll increase the chances of meeting someone with the same passions, values and beliefs.
- Arrange your life so that you have many regular opportunities to meet people who are likely good candidates for a romantic relationship.
Familiarity can be related to proximity, but you don’t have to be physically close to someone to feel familiar. You have seen someone before or know someone through a mutual friend.
Familiarity reduces threat and stimulates interaction. ‘A friend of a friend is my friend.’ You already have a social circle in common, which promotes affiliation.
Contrary to popular belief, opposites do not attract. We like people who think, act and feel like us. We prefer others who have similar beliefs, actions, attitudes and values. Because they are the smart ones, right?
If people only were more like us, it would be a perfect world. (At least we think so …)
A complementary nature enhances attraction. Mutual interests strengthen and validate your self-worth. You already have something to talk about which puts the focus on the similarities instead of the differences. This levels the playing ground for love since you already feel like you share something.
This doesn’t apply to all similarities. Only similarities about the things and values that are meaningful. And it works both ways:
Assumed similarity enhances attraction, but attraction also develops an illusion of similarity
– Ayala Malach Pines –
#5. Physiological arousal
Love at first sight isn’t just mental, it also triggers a physiological response. Romantic love causes exhilaration including increased energy, hyperactivity, sweating, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, trembling, a pounding heart, accelerated breathing and strong focused attention.
When you think about it, those symptoms are not different from a situation where you are scared, excited or anxious. What is the difference with butterflies in our stomach?
Everyone who experiences physiological arousal that accompanies strong emotions is potentially a person in love.
-Ayala Malach Pines –
The central idea was first postulated by William James and Carl Lang, who were 19th century scholars. Their claim was that we first feel something within our body (a physiological arousal) and only afterwards attribute a certain emotion to it.
A thought doesn’t explain an emotion, but an emotion explains a thought. We do this through cognitive dissonance. Our decision is rationalized backwards.
Let me illustrate this by the following two experiments.
1. In a research study participants were waiting in the lobby of the department of psychology of Yale University. The confederate (someone who is in on an experiment) entered carrying a cup of coffee, a clipboard and two textbooks.
During the elevator ride to the fourth-floor laboratory, the confederate asked participants if they could hold a cup of coffee. Meanwhile she recorded the participant’s name and starting hour. The confederate wrote down the info and took the coffee cup back. The coffee cup was either hot or cold.
When participants arrived at the experimental room, they received a personality impression questionnaire about the confederate. The results showed that they rated the personality as ‘warmer’ when they had to hold a coffee cup and ‘colder’ when they received the cold one.
2. Another experiment is the famous ‘love-bridge’ experiment in 1974 by Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron.. An attractive female interviewed males halfway two bridges. She interviewed one group of males on a rickety bridge, high above a river. The other group of males were questioned on a stable, sturdy bridge, just above the water. After the interview the female interviewer offered her number in case they had any further questions.
Dutton and Arthur had the idea that people on the rickety bridge would be more nervous, excited and aroused. They suggested that the men might wrongly attribute those sensations to the emotion of being in love, given the situation.
The experiment confirmed what they had expected: more men contacted the female interviewer in the case of the rickety bridge. Researchers found similar results when a male approached women.
- Do something adventurous on a first date. You both will feel exhilarated, excited and nervous, all the feelings you also have when you fall in love. Your partner might attribute those feelings to you, instead of the situation, thereby sparking interest and love’s flame.
#6. Your childhood
Ask someone about their childhood and it will explain the majority of their mindset.
How was the relation with your parents? How was the relationship between them? Was there affection and intimacy? How did they communicate and express emotions? What did you have to do to get affection and love? How did you react to this situation?
Attraction depends upon the way in which we find someone with whom we can continue the unfinished business of childhood
– John Armstrong –
A blueprint formed of how the world and people act towards you and how you should see yourself. We develop unconscious habitual patterns that simulate our relationship with our primary caregivers.
Later, in our adult life, we mirror the relationship we had with (one of) our parent(s). A child is not being taught by teaching, but by example.
This is the most defining attraction trigger, but also the hardest one to change because it’s ingrained so deeply. If people have trouble with relationships it almost always starts in their childhood. Unfortunately, you attract what you are, not what you want.
Drop some comments and share your ideas. What did you think? Any surprises? What attracts you the most in a partner? I am interested in your story.
If you don’t want to miss any updates, be sure to sign up for the newsletter.