You know how it feels, you know how it looks. But do you know the science behind desire?
What is it that determines who we are sexually attracted to? This is a surprisingly complex question to answer because attractiveness appears to depend upon a number of factors. Some of these are biological, others are psychological, and yet others have to do with our social environments. Below are ten of the most interesting findings scientists have documented when it comes to attraction.
1. We tend to be attracted to people who look like us. For instance, in one study, researchers asked heterosexual men and women to rate the attractiveness of several faces . Included among the photos was a picture of one’s own face that had been digitally morphed into the other sex. Participants found this morphed face to be more attractive than all of the others!
2. This may sound creepy to some of you, but we also seem to be attracted to people who remind us of our parents. For example, research has found that people born to older parents tend to be attracted to older partners as adults.
3. If you’re already physiologically aroused (e.g., from having just exercised) and you meet someone new, you’re more likely to develop an attraction to that person. Why? You may mistakenly attribute the source of your elevated heartbeat to the stranger instead of the true source of your arousal. Learn more about the role of arousal in attraction here.
4. “Beer goggles” really are a thing. Research has found that the drunker people get, the higher the attractiveness ratings they give to strangers. Alcohol also changes how attractive we perceive ourselves. You can learn more about the science of beer goggles here.
5. Playing hard to get seems to work — at least if you’re looking for a long-term relationship. All else equal, less available people are seen as more desirable romantic prospects. However, if you’re looking for casual sex, playing hard to get might backfire.