Psychology has studied the laws of attraction for at least half a century, and some of the findings might surprise you. We often think that how attractive we are is just about physical appearance. We assume that we’re either a good-looking person or we aren’t. We assume that we are doomed to be found unattractive if we had the bad luck to strike out in the looks department.
Despite some cross-cultural variability, there do seem to be certain physical attributes that are considered attractive around the world. Youth, good health, and symmetry are universally found to be attractive. In women, the hourglass shape is considered attractively feminine, and in men, the upper torso looking like an inverted triangle is considered attractively masculine. Babies prefer to look at the same faces that adults think are attractive. Psychology has also found that there is a positive bias towards good-looking people. We think the best of them, though it may be unwarranted.
But psychology has also found that attraction is not all about looks. Personalities can be attractive or unattractive. Higher social status is generally more attractive than lower. We are generally more attracted to people who we live in proximity to us and who become familiar to us. We are generally more attracted to people who like us. And we are generally more attracted to people who are similar to us. The good news, then, is that we can compensate for deficiencies in the looks department by improving our personalities, by increasing our social status, by becoming familiar to people we want to like us, by showing our liking in the hopes of reciprocity, and by seeking out people who are more similar than different to us.
What’s an Attractive Personality?
Research has found that we prefer one personality type for casual sexual relations but another type for serious long-term romantic relationships. For more casual relations, we prefer people who are more outgoing, lively, and confident. Narcissists who make good first impressions but become less attractive the better you get to know them often win in this department. But for serious long-term relationships, we want someone who is warm, caring, dependable, trustworthy, and devoted. We might not be so good at winning popularity contests if we are not good-looking or the life of the party. But we can be quite successful in attracting a high-quality long-term partner if we cultivate the side of our personalities that is warm, caring, dependable, trustworthy, and devoted. Intelligence and a good sense of humour also add to the attractiveness of our personalities for either short or long-term relationships.
The Attraction to Resources
Professional success is attractive. Our education, and the more money we make, can make us more attractive. A hardworking, ambitious, and conscientious person is going to be more attractive than a lazy and inconsiderate person. Especially in a long-term relationship, we are attracted to people who can help provide us and our future children with a good life. In a time when dual-income families are the norm, this is just as true for men as for women. It seems that unsuccessful men are especially unattractive to women; this is a frequent reason for women divorcing such men.
Growing on Someone
Yes, first impressions count for a lot and tend to bias our later impressions of people. It is important to make a good first impression. Nevertheless, people can grow on each other if they spend enough time around each other and become sufficiently familiar. As someone gets to know the real you even if you didn’t make the best first impression, feelings of attraction can increase over time. That assumes that the real you, that is your real personality, your real social status, your heartfelt appreciation of your partner, and your real similarities are eventually appreciated. That also assumes that the target of your desires can overcome their bias based on first impressions. Some people won’t give you a second look if they don’t feel strong sexual chemistry based on first impressions.
Don’t Play Hard to Get
One law of attraction is that we like people who like us. But that doesn’t mean we should ingratiate ourselves with or flatter every person we meet. What we like is to be liked by people who are selective. We want to be liked by people who don’t like everybody but have the discernment to like us. That’s what flatters our egos. So, if you meet someone you really like, it’s better to show it than play hard to get and it’s best to seem like you’re not a person who likes everyone indiscriminately or just uses flattery on everybody to get to first base. You have to seem like you are a genuinely selective person for people to feel special.
Opposites Don’t Attract
Psychology has discovered that birds of a feather flock together. We want to be with someone who likes us and who shares our outlook, values, and life goals. We don’t want to settle for someone beneath us. Though we’d like someone out of our league despite worries we won’t be good enough, we like being with someone who is our equal. That makes us feel safe and secure. So, if you want to find people who will think you’re attractive, go out and find someone who is your equal and who is similar to you. Differences become sources of conflict in long-term relationships and sometimes when the differences get too large, they become deal-breakers.
We can always become a more attractive version of ourselves. We can stay fit and healthy. We can work to become warmer, more dependable, and more conscientious. We can give people time to get to know us so that we can grow on them while showing how much we like them—even though that might make us feel vulnerable to rejection. And finally, we can seek people who are our equal and similar to us who are more likely to perceive us as a kindred spirits. Share your views in the comments below.