Attraction turns scientific

What is it about the glimmer in a pair of eyes across the room that makes you wish you knew the person behind them? Can we pin down the “je ne sais quoi,” or a special someone’s intangible beauty you can’t explain, that leaves one falling head over heels? Whether or not you already have a certain person in mind, the answer to making a connection may lie in a few psychological theories rather than a mystical connection. If you’re desperate to trap a boo, put your doubts aside for these borderline manipulation tactics, curated from scienceofrelationships.com and backed up by AP Psychology teacher Brian Wendel.

Use your looks

“If they take time to make themselves more presentable, they hold themselves to a higher standard,” Anthony Sasso ‘17 said.

The ideal of beauty changes depending on who you talk to, but a cleanly appearance and good hygiene gives the impression of exceptional trustworthiness in any situation.

“If you walk into a job interview, and you don’t try to look nice, it looks like you don’t care,” Grace H. ‘19 said.

While stealing the attention of a love interest is not a major career move, taking care of your physical appearance—both synthetic and genetic—defines the iconic “love at first sight” plotline. However, some consider exceptional beauty at arm’s length.

“I just assume ‘she doesn’t like me, there’s no way,’” Luke S. ‘20 said.

Freshman Joe D. agreed.

“I’m intimidated because I don’t think I’m good looking,” Joe said. “You critique yourself and what you did wrong when you have a chance to talk to them.”

Both Luke and Joe admitted feeling inadequate despite being otherwise confident in themselves. But those considered physically imposing may work harder to establish a relationship.

“When someone is mangled, disfigured, or viewed as a threat it may prevent connection. We are biologically hardwired to not trust people outside our group biases,” Wendel said.

Proximity fosters genuine connection

Daily interactions reveal more about a person than the seven seconds it takes to make a first impression. We are more likely to become attracted to those we come in contact with on a daily basis rather than someone we pass once in the hallway.

“With a fellow student or coworker, you are usually going to have things in common,” Wendel said.

The strongest attraction over time, however, can stem from someone you once hated—per the mere exposure theory.

“The mere exposure theory is a sequence of events occurring over months or years. There may be a certain person you have nothing in common with or are not even physically attracted to, but go through an evolution of your feelings for each other,” Wendel said.

After initial dislike passes, a tolerance for one another develops into respect—which may turn into a deeper connection.

“This is based on compatibility rather than looks, so it can survive the test of time. This explains why arranged marriages are often successful,” Wendel said.

Opposites don’t attract

We tend to surround ourselves with people who foster the same core beliefs and values; therefore, we are attracted to people who are similar to us—or are at least resemble an ideal we want to strive for.

“We tend to be attracted to characteristics we find admirable in ourselves,” Wendel said. “Similar interests, goals, thoughts and attitudes can certainly form an attraction between two people.”

Is it surprising to find out people are not magnets?

“I never look for someone who’s different from me. I look for someone who will push me out of my comfort zone, but still aligns with me,” Sasso said.

Balance is key.

“It depends on who you find. If you find someone similar, you have stuff to talk about. But with someone different you have more to discover about one another,” Grace said.

In general, Wendel argues opposites attract when infatuation is involved.

“Infatuation occurs when someone is more reckless, or unlike ourselves. This leans on physical characteristics, and traits or behaviors you know aren’t typical to your own,” Wendel said.

Fear creates romance?

A fancy dinner is classically romantic, as are chocolates and flowers. But to create an authentic chemistry between you two, scare the love out of your date.

“Any time people share a traumatic experience, they experience a shared biochemical reaction,” Wendel said.

While studies focus on life-or-death situations, Wendel says any emotional bond creates a deeper feeling of attraction than the physical aspects of romance. To recreate this, put a spin on the classic “dinner and a movie”—or more likely “Netflix and chill”—by hitting “play” on the latest thriller… as long as the other person doesn’t mind.

“It’s more about what the girl is into, especially if you really like them,” Aiden M. ‘20 said.

Originally published as a cover article in the 2017 February issue of The Beacon magazine for Olentangy High School

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