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What Really Makes Us Fall In Love? Exploring The Science of Attraction


This is a republished blog post from Sara Seabrooke PhD, Co-Founder of Instant Chemistry.

When we say “there’s just something about her,” or The Beatles sing “something in the way she moves,” that something has a name.

It’s called “science.”

What was once un-knowable, science is making huge strides in uncovering. We can’t predict completely who you’ll fall in love with, but we’re a lot closer than calling it “chemistry,” although for the most part that’s exactly what it is.

So what exactly can science tell us?

Well, studies show that men find symmetrical facial features attractive. Men also like feminine facial features and a feminine voice. Cosmetics are used by women to enhance feminine features by increasing the contrast between their eyes or mouth and their skin. Men also find the body shape of women to be attractive. Preferences for body shape are thought to relate to health and reproductive potential. A 0.7 hip-to-waist ratio is rated as most attractive by men. This ratio was found to be more important in male attraction than breast size, leg length or toned athletic bodies. But, as much as we might want that perfect body sported by female beauties such as Jessica Alba and Kate Moss, we don’t all fit the same mold. All pretty obvious? Not so fast.

Like icebergs, 90% of it’s going on below the surface

Researchers are uncovering an unexplored world of fascinating human behaviour that is far more complicated and strange and might be that “something” we just can’t put our finger on.

Our brains have the remarkable ability to process, integrate and act on different forms of information such as sound, smell, taste, touch and body language. It may sound odd that this is all happening subconsciously. But imagine we had to consciously interpret all of these factors every time we talked with someone? We would never get anything done! Through our experiences we develop preferences which act as shortcuts to help us make decisions, including the partners we chose.

I Want What You’ve Got

Even if we feel that our choice in a partner is intensely personal, it may actually be strongly influenced by the mate choices of others. Women rate men as more desirable if the man is with a woman than if he’s alone. One reason for this is it may save time and effort if another woman has already done her due diligence in mate choice. Another is that women use the attractiveness of a man’s sexual partners as an indicator of the quality of the man. Women also rate men as more attractive if the woman they are with is attractive. And the more attractive the woman is, the more attractive the man is thought to be.

Sucker for Red

Ladies, it’s time take that red dress or outfit out of the closet. Recent research has shown that both men and women perceive the colour red as a sign of strength, power, and dominance. This perception of red exists across cultures and age groups.

Red has been enamoured throughout history and used as a symbol of strength and fertility. Neolithic hunters placed red ochre in graves of their deceased to provide them with life-giving powers. Romans drank the blood of gladiators as a sign of strength and brides wore red as a sign of love and fertility. Physical changes have also been reported in response to red including increased heart beat and enhanced sense of smell. How would you react to receiving a red rose symbolizing love?

Love is in the Air

Most research on human mate choice focuses on visual cues. However, we are learning that smell and taste also provide subconscious information about how compatible two people are. Body odor also strongly impacts sexual attraction, bonding and maintaining a relationship. If this sounds strange, consider the last time your partner was away on a business trip. Did you secretly put on their sweater or sleep with their pillow?

Our body odor is largely determined by something called the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). It’s a cluster of genes which make up part of our immune system. An individual’s MHC can be similar or distinct from those around them. Recent scientific research has shown that we subconsciously detect the MHC genes of others through taste and smell. These instinctual preferences help us choose a mate.

What’s very cool and may just be that “something” we are looking for is that couples in long-term relationships were found to have MHC genes that are very different from their partner’s. This is termed “biological compatibility”. When women were asked to smell shirts worn by men and rank them, they consistently ranked men with MHC genes different to their own as more attractive. Dissimilar MHC genes also influence whether a man sees a woman’s face as attractive or not. In fact, there is convincing evidence that biologically compatible partners not only find each other more attractive, but have more satisfying sex lives, increased fertility rates and produce children with stronger immune systems.

Instant Chemistry

At Instant Chemistry, we offer a way for dating companies to improve their success rates. With a simple cheek swab, we can help matchmakers incorporate MHC information into their matching algorithm. This will help predict if two people are biologically compatible. As a customer, this means that you will enjoy a greater chance of physical attraction with your future matches. This technique can improve the odds that couples will enjoy instant chemistry and will maintain successful, long-term relationships.

We at Instant Chemistry understand the personal nature of DNA and maintain a high level of privacy when handling DNA. Our analysis does not reveal any health concerns and once the analysis is completed, your DNA sample is destroyed.

We would love to hear from you about the science of human relationships. Please contact us at info@instantchemistry.ca or toll-free at 1-855-353-3030.

By Sara Seabrooke PhD

Sara is the Co-Founder of Instant Chemistry.
Website: instantchemistry.com
Twitter: @InstantChem

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