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.”

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sandy Carmichael is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as Seniors’ Champion. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Worker bee returns to volunteer: Sandy Carmichael a fixture at Langford Royal Canadian Legion

Sandy Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Seniors’ Champion Award

West Shore Parks and Recreation facilities face a challenging future in terms of funding, due to reduced operations throughout the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore Parks and Recreation faces challenging future

West Shore Parks and Recreation Society submits 2021 budget request to owner municipalities

The It’s Critical campaign has raised $5.89 million towards its $7 million goal to expand critical care capacity at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Critical care improvements make the list with Greater Victoria shoppers

Save-On-Foods pledges $300,000 to Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical campaign

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon to listen to speakers decry COVID-19 restrictions. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Victoria residents protest masks, COVID-19 restrictions

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon

Saskatoon resident liajah Pidskalny poses with his bike near the University of Victoria after putting on thousands of kilometres to raise awareness of the overdose and mental health crisis. (Courtesy Iliajah Pidskalny)
Saskatoon cyclist winds up mental health and overdose awareness ride in Victoria

Iliajah Pidskalny braves prairie winter conditions to get word out to communities

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Most Read