The Science of Attraction

While poets and artists have long celebrated the phenomenon of human attraction, scientists and researchers are growing increasingly fascinated by the science of how and why it works. What they’re finding is that senses like sight and smell are powerful mechanisms that draw us to our biologically compatible lovers, based on fertility and our unique genetic makeup.

Sight is an obvious sense used to judge physical beauty, but not only in the way you think. The color red has long been associated with drawing the eye. As a status symbol, it evokes power and status, since historically the dye was expensive and rare. Biologically, though, it implies fertility and even raises the pulse slightly, enough to enhance the perception of attractiveness in both men and women.

Symmetry, the Golden Ratio, and the proportions of our hips and waist all provide a mathematical equation for what’s ideal in both men and women. Why? They give physical indications of hormone levels, fertility, and overall genetic health.

Scent is an even more powerful mechanism of attraction, because it goes beyond showing genetic health to show biological compatibility with a potential partner. You can’t fake it with perfumes and scented soaps, since it’s the pheromones in someone’s natural scent that signal genetic compatibility.

But does this take out the romance?

We’ll let you decide. But somehow it’s reassuring to consider, that under the most flattering clothes and beautifully applied makeup, that we’re physically attractive to the right person for reasons deeper than outward appearance. Even if those reasons can be dissected in a lab by a researcher in a white coat…that just makes it official that the mystery of attraction between two people is "scientifically" undeniable.

Jeremy Adelman