Before love or even the inkling of a relationship, there is attraction, that unexplained magnetism that draws people together, possibly leading to love. Much relationship research has so far focused on how romantic heterosexual relationships are formed or how people fall in love and stay in love. Within the past few years, researchers have begun to focus on the nature of physical attraction, but this question of initial attraction is more than just about the physical. Personality, evolution and even economic compatibility can all be factors in why people are drawn together.
“What we see as attractive is a byproduct of not only our biological wiring, but is also influenced by socio-cultural factors,” says David Sarwer of the Center for Human Appearance at the University of Pennsylvania. Although individual differences in what we consider attractive “are not wellunderstood,” Sarwer says, we are shaped by “what we learn from our parents and peers as well as what we see in the mass media.”
Adds Chicago psychiatrist Paul Dobransky, “Sexual attraction is completely instinctual, and is not based in logic.” Overall, experts say, men focus on the physical; woman view attractiveness as more than just looks.
Evolution plays a role Research suggests that some physical characteristics — a symmetrical face, for example — are considered more universally attractive. Evolutionary theorists say men are attracted to youthful women who have an “hourglass figure” with hips larger than the waist, an advantage in childbirth. Women are attracted to masculine faces that are more angular, with a larger jaw and greater muscle mass, which suggest higher levels of testosterone. “All these things work to say: ‚I am male, or female. Notice me. And I am interested, so come closer.‘” says anthropologist David Givens. Other studies have found romantic attraction among those who have similar family, religious and economic backgrounds or who are similar in physical attractiveness, intelligence, self-esteem or mental or physical health. Also, the more socially desirable people are, the more they expect the same qualities in a partner. “People get a sense of what they look like and how attractive they are, and are attracted to partners similar in value,” says Dario Maestripieri from the University of Chicago. A less attractive man attracted to a more attractive woman, for example, can compensate with money and status, he says.
Some people are attracted to others who resemble a beloved family member or who were their first date or first love, while others are attracted to the complete opposite, at least in terms of physical appearance. Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, a research professor at Rutgers University, suggests in her new book that certain hormones attract others, depending upon which hormone appears dominant in that person.
Research weighs in Other research examines everything from the role clothing color plays in attraction to the influence of economic factors: Photographs of women wearing red were judged by men as more attractive than photos of the same women wearing another color in a study at the University of Rochester. Men with more masculine facial features, such as squarer jaws, larger noses and smaller eyes, were perceived by women as good for casual sex but unfaithful long-term partners, a British study in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior found. It also found that men viewed women with wide eyes and large lips as more attractive and more likely open to short-term sexual relationships. Despite stereotypes that men are motivated by good looks and women by earning power, men and women were equally interested in physical appearance and in ambition, a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found. Good looks was the primary stimulus for attraction in both sexes, and someone with good earning power also was attractive to both.
Jae Ellis, 31, founder of relationship website AskRomeo.com, based in Reston, Va., offered some advice recently at an attraction seminar in Washington, D. C. “Attraction is not a choice,” he said. “You can‘t determine whether or not you‘re going to be attracted to someone, but you can determine whether someone else is going to be attracted to you. You can make yourself more attractive to the opposite sex.”
O autorovi| USA Today