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10 Fascinating Facts About the Psychology of Attraction

You may have a pretty good idea about what it is you’re attracted to: hair color, eye color, height, smell… Smell?

Believe it or not, your subconscious has quite the strong opinion when it comes to finding others attractive. From the depths of the human brain, here are 10 fascinating facts about the psychology of attraction.

Women with older fathers are often attracted to older men.

As it turns out, the common stereotype that women are attracted to older men because they have underlying “daddy issues” is not totally true. Recent studies have found that women who were born to older fathers are more likely to find older men attractive. Specifically, they’re more likely to consider men with more facial creases and less hair to be attractive. As you might assume based on this, women who were born to younger fathers are more likely to be attracted to younger men.

Attraction comes down to more than just sight.

It’s easy to assume that the crux of attraction comes down to sight, with maybe a few brain chemicals thrown in. Sight certainly is crucial in the psychology of attraction. But it turns out that sound and smell also play a big role. A study published in Frontiers of Psychology says that people are able to discern a number of characteristics about a potential partner — including weight, dominance level, and emotional state — simply by listening to them speak. The same study found that people are able to determine the same characteristics through smell. Yes, those brain chemicals that deal with physical attraction are prompted by not just sight, but sounds and smell as well.

Different scents incite different levels of attraction.

We  know that smells play a big role in the psychology of attraction, but which smells are considered hot and which not? A study published by the Social Issues Research Center found that women are attracted to androstenol, a natural chemical found in fresh male sweat. But while androstenol acts as a pheromone, the scent of androstenone, which is produced when there is too much sweat, acts as a natural turn off.

Men, on the other hand, may be attracted to the smell of perfume, but turned off by the smell of tears. Yep. A 2011 Science magazine article found that when men sniffed tears, they felt a decrease in sexual arousal, whereas there was no change when they sniffed a neutral saline solution.

Opposites really do attract.

You’ve likely heard the maxim that “opposites attract.” Well, as it turns out, it’s true! A recent study conducted at the University of Dresden found that both men and women are naturally attracted to those with a different human leukocyte antigen (HLA complex) — basically a genetic blueprint — than their own. Because a person’s HLA complex is vital to immune function, this fascinating fact suggests that this subconscious attraction has to do with survival of the species. So how do we know which potential mates have genetic blueprints different than our own? According to the study, our brains are able to tell based on scent alone.

The tone of a woman’s voice naturally increases when she’s flirting.

According to a study conducted by Canada’s McMaster University, the tone of a woman’s voice increases a bit when she’s flirting. Even more fascinating is the fact that exactly how high a woman’s voice goes varies at different times. For example, her highest chords occur during her most fertile time, around ovulation. Fortunately, the study found that not only do men prefer these higher pitched voices, but they rated the highest pitch (the one that occurs around ovulation) as the most attractive of all.

“I love you” has a more emotional effect on the brain when it’s whispered into the left ear.

If you’re trying to impress a potential partner with romantic whispers, be sure to speak into his or her left ear. An MITCogNet study found that when emotion stimuli entered the left ear, accuracy of recall was more than 6% higher than when the same stimuli entered the right ear.

Red is the most attractive color.

Regardless of how you feel about the color red, studies have shown that both men and women are perceived as more attractive and more sexual when they are wearing red or another color that’s both bright and warm.

The quickest way to a person’s heart is through their…eyes.

That may not be the traditional ending to the popular maxim, but scientifically speaking, it’s most accurate. A study published in The Journal of Research in Personality found that people who share prolonged eye contact form stronger attachments with, and increased affection for, their staring partner, as opposed to those who are introduced with the more traditional handshake.

Beards are attractive, but not all beards.

A study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology reveals that heterosexual women are naturally attracted to men with beards. But not every beard made the cut. The study concluded that men with stubble, or some  small degree of facial hair were deemed more attractive by the female participants. The males considered least attractive were those who were clean shaven and those with large, bushy beards. This may suggest that women subconsciously view men with stubble as active, healthy, and more likely to be a good parent.

A woman’s cycle determines the type of man she finds attractive.

Though a heterosexual woman may be in a happy, committed relationship, she’s likely to find a range of men attractive over the course of her menstrual cycle. According to several different studies, normally ovulating women are attracted to different things depending upon their hormone levels during menstruation. During a woman’s fertile stage (usually lasting 3-6 days), she is most likely to prefer men with deeper voices, competitive natures, and other typically masculine features. At peak fertility — the day of ovulation — a woman is the most likely she’ll ever be to seek out a male stronger than her usual partner. Psychologists attribute this to the genetic hardwiring in mammals that drives the need to find a stronger mate.

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