The science of attraction

Author says what people find attractive is a complex cocktail of biology and environment that is almost certainly unique to each individual

Scientific study may have determined much of the biology and psychology behind human attraction

Scientific study may have determined much of the biology and psychology behind human attraction

Ask random people on the street (like we did) about what they find attractive and the answers are rather predictable.

Confidence, attention to personal presentation and a ready smile all received prominent mention.

But as everyone who has ever experienced a love unrequited can tell you, these factors aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. While certain scientific truths formed through evolution underpin the art of attraction, other environmental factors mean people’s love choices will be as unique they are.

In his 2010 book In Your Face: The New Science of Human Attraction, Scottish psychology professor David Perrett states attraction is unavoidably personal.

“Our individual experience of being attracted to someone, while it can often take us by surprise and seem overwhelming and irrational, nevertheless reflects the conscious and unconscious working of our own brains,” he writes.

Several studies  have demonstrated people consciously or unconsciously look for signs of societal dominance, healthy genes and shared personal values and interests — qualities that ultimately should increase our offspring’s chances to succeed.

Our Vancouver Island random street survey reflected that, although participants expressed those feelings in much more general terms:

Kevin Radford said big, bright eyes and long shiny hair — each an indicator of good health — typically caught his attention.

Claire Leversidge said she takes note of the way a person confidently scans a room and moves comfortably around it — signs of societal dominance.

Brian Starr and Rod Edgeworth pointed to how people dress and the way they present themselves, which can provide cues on personal values and compatibility.

And Kelly James talked about a sense of humour and a relaxed attitude which can indicate patience, sensitivity and long-term commitment.

Studies have indicated body types have significance in attraction; broad-shouldered v-shaped men and women with curvy hip-to-waist ratios get more attention because they are genetically more successful. Women and men also prefer men to be taller than their partner.

But Perrett’s work is based on his study of faces and the ways people react to them.

Some of his findings simply confirm the obvious. Others are surprising.

  • Yes, the symmetry of a face — an universal indicator of beauty — is important. But just as powerful is how ‘average’ a face is, meaning how well that face reflects proportions we find familiar and comfortable.
  • Femininity is universally admired. Masculinity is more desirable to women seeking to bear children, less to women seeking to raise them.
  • Our attractiveness dwindles as we age, but the decline starts earlier than you might think. Peak cuteness arrives at about eight months and how attractive we are as babies has influence on our attractiveness as we grow older.
  • Looking the part is important. Our facial structure and the moods we project shapes how others react to us, which shapes how we react to them, which shapes how they perceive us.
  • Provided there is a loving bond between parent and child, we are subconsciously attracted to faces which resemble our parents.
  • We are influenced by the faces our friends find attractive, as well as those the media portrays as attractive.

Perrett said his motivation for writing his book is to demonstrate that while general rules exist for attraction, different people find different faces attractive and there are scientific reasons why.

“Not everyone focuses on the same cues when deciding who has an attractive face,” he writes. “Facial attraction is personal — and…heavily influenced by each of our unique upbringings, our experiences as well as our own appearance.”

 

 

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Alert Bay council has decided to cancel Canada Day celebrations. (Alertbay.ca photo)
Alert Bay council cancels Canada Day celebrations

The decision was made in wake of the mass graves being found at former residential schools

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press Media file
Port Hardy RCMP on the hunt for porta-pottie arsonist

The porta-potties were lit on fire early in the morning on June 13

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Most Read