The Interesting Science Behind Physical Attraction

The Interesting Science Behind Physical Attraction

Your body is playing cupid for you more than you realize.

Think of the person you’re most attracted to. It could be your girlfriend or boyfriend, a crush you’ve only met a couple times, or one of your friends. What is it that pulls you to them? Is it their hair? Smile? Voice? Smell? Or a combination of all of the above? What if I told you that the reason you’re attracted to someone is actually all a part of a mating game that you’re completely unaware of? You probably think everything that attracts you to a person is surface level or just “your type," but in actuality, your body chemistry is playing matchmaker more than you realize, and all for the purpose of reproducing.

All of your senses are involved in attraction more than you might think. Three of the most prominent and responsible ones are sight, smell, and hearing. Obviously, looks play a huge role in attraction. Although the definition of beauty varies among cultures, there are some characteristics that scientifically, everyone is more or less drawn to. Traits such as long hair and smooth skin are universally desired because they are signs of good reproductive fitness. They broadcast that the person is healthy, youthful, and fertile. Although I can’t scientifically prove that blondes have more fun, research has shown that blonde hair is a sign of youth and therefore indicates greater reproductive value. Blonde hair darkens with age, so the lighter one’s hair is, the younger your body perceives that person to be.

Also, your sense of smell is incredibly important. No one wants to be around someone who smells terrible, much less get physical with them. But your nose picks up on physical or genetic information much more complex than the perfume or cologne your partner is wearing. In a study done at the University of Texas at Austin, men smelled t-shirts worn by women in different stages of their ovulation cycles and were asked to rate the smell of each one. The t-shirts worn by women in their most fertile stage of their menstrual cycle were ranked the “sexiest” smelling of them all, which makes sense considering fertility is a high priority in the mating process. Women’s noses, however, are acutely tuned to pick up on MHC molecules, or major histocompatibility complex molecules. These are basically disease-fighters in your DNA. In this case, “opposites attract” applies. Women will want men that have different MHC molecules than them, so that their offspring will be immune to a greater variety of viruses and bacteria. For example, if I am immune to disease A and my partner is immune to disease B, I will be more attracted to his scent than that of someone also immune to disease A because I want my child to be immune to both diseases, not just one.

People’s voices also have an effect on attraction. Typically, men prefer women with higher pitched, breathy voices, indicative of femininity and fertility, while women like men with deep voices, showing masculinity and the ability to raise a family. Ariana Grande is a good example of someone with a high pitched voice, and Josh Turner or Chris Hemsworth are good examples of men with low voices. Ladies, if you’ve never heard Chris Hemsworth speak, watch a movie or interview of his and you’ll know what I’m talking about…but the British accent doesn’t hurt him either.

Once the match has been made, hormones come into play. When you’re into someone, your body releases a certain group of neurotransmitters called monoamines to encourage you to continue pursuing that person. These three are dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

Dopamine, one of the main “pleasure hormones”, is released throughout the body. Its functions have to do with motivation and rewards, and it is responsible for our desire to acquire something, whether it’s food, drugs, an achievement, or sex. These hormones incite feelings of intense energy, bliss, and exhilaration. Dopamine has the exact same effect on the body that cocaine does, and you can easily become addicted to it. (so yes, love is indeed a drug.)

Norepinephrine creates the same feelings that adrenaline does; it’s your fight or flight instinct. It causes you to be more alert, energetic, and focused on the task at hand. If you’re talking to the person you’re attracted to, it helps you to say the right things and pay attention to what the person is saying, so that the end game will work out in your favor and the attraction will be mutual. Norepinephrine levels increase during the first kiss as well; you probably remember your first kiss with someone pretty vividly, right? This is because this hormone increases your ability to remember the moment, as the fight or flight instinct prepares your body for more, sending signals throughout your brain that something exciting is happening.

Serotonin is also released. Serotonin is the natural chemical that makes you happy, and it affects things like mood, appetite, sleep, memory, and sexual desire. Low serotonin levels can cause depression and decrease libido. It is one of love’s most important chemicals and can actually make us temporarily insane. So to all the crazy girlfriends out there: just blame it on your serotonin levels and thank me later.

Now that you know a little about how your senses and hormones are involved in attraction, you can appreciate all the different ways your body is playing cupid for you the next time you set eyes on that beautiful stranger!

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it


Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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In Real Life, 'Plus Size' Means A Size 16 And Up, Not Just Women Who Are Size 8's With Big Breasts

The media needs to understand this, and give recognition to actual plus-size women.


Recently, a British reality dating TV show called "Love Island" introduced that a plus-sized model would be in the season five lineup of contestants. This decision was made after the show was called out for not having enough diversity in its contestants. However, the internet was quick to point out that this "plus-size model" is not an accurate representation of the plus-size community.

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Anna Vakili, plus-size model and "Love Island "Season 5 Contestant Yahoo UK News

It is so frustrating that the media picks and chooses women that are the "ideal" version of plus sized. In the fashion world, plus-size starts at size 8. EIGHT. In real life, plus-size women are women who are size 16 and up. Plunkett Research, a marketing research company, estimated in 2018 that 68% of women in America wear a size 16 to 18. This is a vast difference to what we are being told by the media. Just because a woman is curvy and has big breasts, does NOT mean that they are plus size. Marketing teams for television shows, magazines, and other forms of media need to realize that the industry's idea of plus size is not proportionate to reality.

I am all for inclusion, but I also recognize that in order for inclusion to actually happen, it needs to be accurate.

"Love Island" is not the only culprit of being unrealistic in woman's sizes, and I don't fully blame them for this choice. I think this is a perfect example of the unrealistic expectations that our society puts on women. When the media tells the world that expectations are vastly different from reality, it causes women to internalize that message and compare themselves to these unrealistic standards.

By bringing the truth to the public, it allows women to know that they should not compare themselves and feel bad about themselves. Everyone is beautiful. Picking and choosing the "ideal" woman or the "ideal" plus-size woman is completely deceitful. We as a society need to do better.

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