The Science of Human Attraction


Human attraction is a complicated thing. No amount of dating apps, social interactions or speed dating can prepare you for the real deal. You can use various apps to try and find an ideal match, but that is based solely on physical attraction. And while that is very important, it is not the primary thing you should focus on. Because as much as you need to like what you see, you also need to hear and smell the person. It sounds strange, but the way a person smells tells a prospective partner much more than their chest-to-waist ratio. If an app were able to give you even the tiniest sample of a person’s smell and their voice, making a decision about them being your ideal partner becomes that much easier.

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Few people really focus on these two factors when thinking about attraction. A pleasing perfume or interesting accent may make a person interesting, but the way they behave is as important, if not more. A woman notices a man with high self-esteem pretty quickly. A man might notice a woman’s great sense of humor before anything else. These are all factors that can easily be spotted. But there is something deeper than that, something that your subconscious knows much earlier than you ever realized. It knew that you are drawn to that particular person.

Attraction is no simple matter. There is not one easily definable part about it. It is a complex equation with variables that need to exactly align in order for us to have a perfect match. It’s not enough to be attracted to just brains or brawn. The way a person smells and sounds needs to be taken into account as well. Scientists have known this for decades, but the science behind this has been relatively under-studied. The focus has always been on the physical aspects of attraction. There are countless studies about the symmetry of a face, chest to hip ratios and even height.

So a group of scientists started focusing on these less explored venues, mainly smell and voice. What they found is that both sexes can gauge their partner’s health, genetic, and immunological compatibility solely by using olfactory cues. Historically, men tend to focus on the physical attractiveness and a woman’s waist to hip ratio in order to determine whether they are fertile. Women, on the other hand, use smell to tell how dominant a man is.

Most of the research about human attraction is performed on heterosexual couples. Even if a study is performed on homosexual couples it is just for comparison with heterosexual couples.

Many people will point out that all of this seems rather primitive, and on some level, human attraction really is very basic. This is true especially for animals and insects because of an organ that is very rarely mentioned, especially when talking about human attraction. That organ is the vomeronasal organ and its main function is to react to pheromones. In the animal kingdom, these hormones are used to send out various signals, from sexual attraction to aggression.

Humans, on the other hand, lost this ability sometime during human evolution. And even if we possess the vomeronasal organ, we have probably lost any function in it, and its connection to our central nervous system is, in all likelihood completely severed.

So why is human attraction so complicated? Well it’s probably down to our ability to give our best estimate about compatibility after considering all important factors. Scientists still do not know what kind of message we send to or pick up from potential partners, and they know even less about the ways we interpret them. As with all other subjects, more research is needed if we are to be sure what drives us to prefer some people more than others.

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