What attracts us to certain people?

Did you know that mosquitoes are attracted to people who just ate bananas? Apparently this is because it is high in potassium and mosquitoes like it. So what attracts us to one person and not another? Surely it can’t be because of their bananas!

Most people realise and recognise the symptoms when there is an initial attraction. Some call it chemistry and say it can manifest itself in many different ways; sweaty palms, giggles, not being able to look them in the eye, a quickening of your heart beat, butterflies in your tummy etc. What causes this initial reaction?

There are a number of scientific studies about this, especially in animals. Scientists say that attraction between animals is about chemicals, namely pheromones. Recent studies suggest that we are also affected by this, implying that pheromones help us make wise decisions (from a species perspective) since we will unknowingly prefer the smell of someone whose genetic makeup complements ours.

According to modern psychology, there are specific factors that cause attraction, which are:

1- Association
We make associations in our mind to what is going on around us and our environment. We are more likely to be attracted to someone we meet in a happy place versus a location with bad memories. This also extends to associations in religion, country, language etc.

2- Similarity
If someone has similar experiences and outlooks to our own, this increases the chances of being attracted to them. Studies and statistics indicate that people tend to pair off according to similarities in race, age, religion, education, physical characteristics and other general characteristics.

3- Familiarity
When we find people who display familiar behaviours be ours, they are comfortable to be around. Even if it is something like an accent similar to people where we grew up, if we had a happy childhood, may be attractive to us because of this connection.

4- Physical appearance
Most psychologists agree that physical appearance affects attraction yet are in disagreement as to what causes this. It has been suggested that some people go for better looking individuals (in their own eyes) in order to increase their self-esteem. Others state that men are attracted to women for biological reasons and their association with youth and fertility. Regardless of the explanation, it is agreed that physical appearance plays a significant role in determining attraction.

Where is the romance in all of this you may ask? Well, a person’s personality, wit and intelligence may attract us but is their genetic makeup that first attracts us to them. Other studies have shown that we also become more attracted to someone as we spend more time with them. Time allows us to appreciate characteristics that may not have been immediately apparent and these can lead to a strong and long lasting attraction over time.

So attraction in not like e=mc2. It is a mixture of genetics, culture, upbringing and ultimately your own individuality. Impalpable ingredients such as personality, emotions, sense of humour, instincts and attitudes all contribute to varying levels of attraction. Some say opposites attract, others think that birds of a feather flock together. Whichever side of the fence you happen to fall on, there are just certain things we can’t quite put our finger on. Ideally we will be attracted to people who make us feel good about ourselves and vice versa.

Who do you tend to find yourself attracted to? Have you noticed any general traits?

The BBC discusses the Science of Love and what makes us fancy someone.

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Written by Ana Antunes da Silva.

Photo by Flickr user Fanz.

2,507 Responses to “What attracts us to certain people?”

  1. physician assistant says:

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  2. Usually I dont comment, but this one made me think, just wanted to let you know.

  3. Kate says:

    Thanks for an informative post. I tend to find myself being attracted to people with tan/olive skin, dark brown eyes and an overall great physical appearance (in my eyes). In terms of personality, I can’t go past a person who is understanding, intelligent and has a sense of humour.

    I find this stuff very interesting. It’s amazing how I can feel like my stomach is doing backflips with nerves around some people, yet with others there is nothing.

    • Ana says:

      Hi Kate.
      Many thanks for your comments. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
      If there are any topics that you would like to read about on here please do let me know.

  4. Lillian says:

    What I’m most curious about is the reason why we prefer certain looks over our peer’s preferences. For example, many of my friends prefer tall blonde men while I prefer dark haired men without brown eyes. Maybe it has to do with what traits we want to see in our children.

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