What actually is attraction


As a society we are all given the traditional perspective that we will fall in love, experience the pleasure and bliss that comes with romance, develop a deep connection, and potentially have children.

We have all been attracted to somebody at some point, but what is is that actually draws us to that person?

Have you ever wondered why you’re attracted to the people you are? Different factors affect who you are attracted to throughout your lives. Culture, society, and expectations of what you want from a partner shape who you choose as a partner.

Relationships and love provide purpose and definition to life, stimulating and motivating mates. Logic is sometimes cast aside when matters of love and relationships are in focus.

The psychology of attraction, while it might appear to have no specific logic, uses many variables to influence attachments. Both negative and positive experiences impact the attractiveness of another person unconsciously.

So what is the science behind this force?

Social psychologists (psychologists that study interpersonal and group dynamics and social challenges) define attraction as a force/power that draws people together. The term attraction has historically been used to refer to the affinity that draws together friends and romantic partners. However, many current researchers believe there are important qualitative differences among the forces that draw people into different types of relationships.

So why are we attracted to others?


This is the idea that attraction occurs by sharing information with a partner, information about yourself that you may not feel comfortable sharing with anyone else.

By sharing personal information with another individual, you can show that you trust them and feel secure around them; an important factor which contributes to attraction.

Self-disclosure leads to greater intimacy, which brings more satisfaction to the relationship. Altman and Taylor (1973) developed this idea with their social penetration theory (self-disclosure must gradually increase in depth over time, in order for a relationship to survive).

Physical Attractiveness

Whilst it’s natural to assume that people are attracted to physically good-looking people, it may not necessarily be the case. Psychologists have theorised that physical attractiveness is linked to evolutionary needs for survival. Some theorists believe that physical fitness results in an ability evade attackers and indicates health and fertility.

What a partner looks for differs depending on the sex of the individual.For example, symmetry is often noted as an important component of physical attractiveness.

Historically, women focused more on the financial and physical security a man can provide.

This has changed over time, but is this an evolutionary development or a societal requirement?

Matching Hypothesis

According to Walster et al. (1966), when people select a partner, they do not automatically aim for the most attractive person they can find.

According to the matching hypothesis, individuals tend to choose a partner that is similar to them or ‘matching’ in physical attractiveness.

Individuals subconsciously look for people that are equally attractive, giving them a chance at a relationship rather than being in a position where they may get rejected.

The Filter Theory

Established by Kerckhoff and Davis (1962), the theory states that people narrow down their selection of prospective partners by putting them through a series of filters.

1. Sociodemographic characteristics: these are physical proximity, age, social class, religion, etc.

2. Similarity of attitudes: this is if prospective partners share the same fundamental beliefs as us, such as if they think family is important.

3. Complementarity: this is when partners have traits that balance each other out. E.g. if one partner is very indecisive and the other likes to take charge and make decisions, they complement each other.

Evolutionary changes

Evolutionary factors suggest that men and women choose their partners differently. The existence of a difference between men and women results in two different methods being used for mate selection, one for men and one for women.

Intersexual Selection: Intersexual selection occurs when one gender makes choices regarding their mate based on specific characteristics of the other gender. Females play a more active role in mate selection here.

Intrasexual Selection: Intrasexual selection occurs when there is a sense of competition between same-sex members to attract and win the right to mate with a member from the opposite sex. Males dominate mate selection here, and females play a more passive role.


  • Various factors affect human attraction, and multiple theories have explored specific factors that aid or inhibit the potential development of relationships. Self disclosure and physical attractiveness have a lot of supporting evidence for these theories.
  • Different factors will hold different levels of importance for everyone, which is why there is not one factor that can be considered the most important. Rather, each factor may play a more or less important role depending on the stage of the relationship.

Helpful links

APA Dictionary definition: https://dictionary.apa.org/attraction

8 Details about the psychology of attraction: https://www.marriage.com/advice/relationship/psychology-of-attraction/

5 important discoveries about the laws of attraction: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-psychology-relationships/202110/5-important-discoveries-about-the-laws-attraction

2024-05-23T14:52:46+01:00May 23rd, 2024|
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