The science behind attraction

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There are few topics that inspire more interest in the private or public sectors than interpersonal erotic approach behaviors. In the context of mating, approach behavior includes seduction, attachment, and falling in love.

Relationship & Dating

Do opposites attract?

The things we do are often subconsciously influenced by a variety of factors, ranging from environmental exposure to genetic predisposition. In many cases, we don’t realize that our actions are influenced by things we are unconscious of, such as our taste in food, personal style, or who we find attractive. As Carrie Bradshaw famously said ” I’m looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other-love. Aren’t we all… 

By Sharilynn Hanslo

What is chemistry?

Romantic Chemistry is an effortless attraction between two people that often occurs naturally and can feel addictive. The neurological chemical reaction that occurs during this process is essentially similar to feeling intoxicated or on drugs. During this state of mind, people may often act in an inexplicable manner, often behaving erratically. Being attracted to someone feels very too being high. You lose track of time, make impulsive decisions and struggle to focus. 

In man, this chemical reaction manifests physically as blood flows away from the brain to the lower part of the body.  During this period infatuation develops thus I would advise treading carefully if says he’d like to watch the dark knight rising with you. Despite our best efforts, human behavior is fallible, making real relationships difficult to understand, because complexities are inherent to human psychology.

From an evolutionary perspective, this is not surprising since humanity’s primary purpose ever since the dawn of time has been to ensure the survival of our species through the process of procreation ,thus sexual attraction, and the urge to procreate is primal. There are three important stages in the development of relationships: Lust, attraction, and attachment. However Lust and sex alone cannot sustain a relationship. 

Each stage is associated with a specific set of chemical reactions, during the stage of attraction, high levels of Testosterone and estrogen drive lust. These hormones produce euphoria and excitement which can result in reduced appetite and insomnia. As a result this can cause sleep deprivation which then causes increased cortisol levels which are responsible for stress. As a result, falling in love can be extremely stressful on the body. Other chemicals include dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin which create attraction while oxytocin and vasopressin mediate attachment. Serotonin is important for initiating attraction, but oxytocin and vasopressin are critical for maintaining it. As time passes, chemicals associated with lust decrease, so the stage of attachment is the most critical step in building a stable and long-lasting relationship. 


At the core of attraction is our need to procreate. As we scan someone’s physical appearance for indicators of genetic inheritance, we are subconsciously looking for the healthiest person. In spite of this, attraction is complex and it cannot tell you if someone will be a good husband and father or if a woman will be a good mother and wife. Once attraction has been established, it is often time to uncover the personality or in dangerous cases the psychopathy of a person something key indicators cannot always accurately predict.

The only way to truly get to know someone is to spend a good amount of time with them, and even then you will never really know everything about them. In interpersonal relationships, the complexity is so unique that sometimes, we find ourselves drawn to people who are unsuitable but we cant separate ourselves from them, In some cases, it feels good because it feels familiar.

Over the years personality disorders like NPD have gained a lot more social awareness. Even though this article does not focus on personality disorders it is important to remember that many people are skilled at hiding their psychopathy. NPDs for example are known for love bombing.

Understanding someone’s psychopathy is complex and isn’t always visible during early stages of dating. The phenomenon of love bombing occurs when someone displays extreme affection and attention to you. In the beginning of a romantic relationship, it can be a positive aspect, but can also lead to gaslighting and abuse. These types of relationships can become extremely toxic and complex over time.

With the popularity of films like 50 shades of grey, romanticizing toxic relationships has become a growing problem. While there’s nothing wrong with people exploring sadistic and hectic lifestyles in a casual and safe way, some may take it to the extreme. To be in love is not to sacrifice your happiness for the happiness of your partner, it’s the expression of love that involves respect and understanding of each other’s feelings. 

The Hero complex

The Hero Complex, sometimes called the Hero Syndrome or Savior Complex, is when someone strives to be the hero of the situation in return for praise and gratitude. We all admire strength and dependability, in fact hero complex is most prevalent in males since men often have an innate need to protect, thus hero syndrome is something women finds attractive and views it as an indicator of good genes. There are, however, instances in which NPD traits can be misinterpreted as hero syndrome thus choosing a part for this reason alone might require some assessment on your part. TheHero Narcissist is the type of narcissist who is invested in being the hero and will position themselves as the solution to solving someone’s problem.

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This is because the majority of self-worth is based on being liked and seen. The savior, the good guy, the fixer, the problem solver. In contrast to most narcissists, the hero narcissist is seldom overtly abusive. Though they appear concerned, compassionate, and helpful, most of their actions are self-serving. Familiarity can be problematic even in family dynamics and social relationships. the hero complex is mostly prevalent in men some women do exhibit this trait.

It’s important to note that being dependable and reliable is good. But being overly available all the time is not appealing, nobody wants to date their mother.  Men are subject to the same rule. It isn’t that nice guys finish last, it is that being too nice may be misinterpreted as weakness or lacking a sense of self. Myself and my colleagues often call this the Reece Witherspoon vs Angelina Jolie effect.

Reece Witherspoon is charming, sweet, predictable, will offer to babysit your sick puppy, cook you dinner, and visit your sick grandmother three times a week. We all need a Reece Witherspoon in our life but secretly we are all curious and attracted to the mystique of Angelina Jolie. It is not necessary to be a Reece Witherspoon or an Angelina Jolie to have a good relationship. Just find a balance that does not resemble a parent-child relationship.

The dynamics of parent-child relationships should not be present in healthy relationships; if you are taking on roles which resemble his mother, remember that guys love their mothers, but they aren’t looking to sleep with them. Constantly doing things to have people like you could indicate low self-esteem. For both sexes it’s important to be kind, emphatic and reliable but it’s equally important to put up healthy boundaries. Remember those who hate boundaries benefit from you having none. 

Less is more effect

Growing up I often heard my parents say ” familiarity breeds content” and it always stuck with me. Familiarity can be problematic even in family dynamics and social relationships. In one research study done by Harvard The Lure of Ambiguity, or Why Familiarity Breeds Contempt. Despite the belief that knowing more about others can increase the chances of people liking you, this study shows that people actually dislike others when they know too much about them. Therefore, ambiguity leads to increased liking, whereas familiarity, breeds contempt. Being too familiar can also lead to overexposure, for example, Paris Hilton vs. the Kardashians. Paris Hilton has gained a level of respect and admiration over the years simply because we don’t hear or see much of her. This is known as the less is more effect.

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Be sweet, and kind but maintain mystery and ambiguity.

This “less is more” “effect is due to the cascading nature of dissimilarity” As soon as evidence of dissimilarity is encountered, subsequent information is likely to be interpreted as more evidence of dissimilarity, leading to a decrease in liking for the relationship”. HBS research shows a negative association between knowledge and liking, and the dissimilarity factor mediates the relationship in lab studies and online daters’ data. According to their study  initial impressions are overly positive in the beginning part because of erroneous perceptions of similarity to ambiguous targets.

With the acquisition of more information, ambiguity is resolved and dissimilarity reveals itself, causing a decrease in liking. What this means is that people often like you because  people (falsely) assume similarity with others in the absence of other information and then base their little information they have on you. Other words, people like you better when they don’t know everything about you. People tend to form relationships when they have something in common because that’s what gives them a positive start.  ” Similarities are relatively high early in the acquaintanceship process, both because people (falsely) assume similarity with others in the absence of other information” So never reveal too much too soon. 

Do opposites attract?

Many tropes in pop culture are based on the good girl falling for the bad boy. So do opposites really attract? The answer is yes and no. Studies show that while opposites attract its common interest similarities that help relations grow over time.

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I’m vegan I can change that

Consider it this way, if you are vegan and dating someone who isn’t, chances are it could cause issues later on when planning dinner dates or choosing a restaurant.  We are often attracted to people for reasons outside of our conscious awareness. Contrary to popular belief, opposites don’t always attract, at least not in the most basic sense. It’s a little more complex than that. It’s not so much that opposites attract, but rather that we are often attracted to people with traits we find attractive, but don’t possess ourselves.

We become enthralled by these people, and we are magnetically drawn to them. Attractive physical characteristics are also crucial, however they only serve to lay the foundation for attraction. True magnetic power comes from the package as a whole, looks accompanied by enigmatic persona and style is often more magnetic than looks alone. Although attractiveness is complicated, there is some science-based evidence that points towards evolutionary bias with regards to key indicator markers which play a vital role in mate selection. It’s not so much about the importance of physical beauty but rather what someones physical appearance tells us about their genetics.

Women like Monsters

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In accordance with Sigmund Freud, we are constantly thinking about love, sex, fantasies, and ambivalence, and according to Jordan Peterson, women are attracted to bad boys and monsters because taming a beast is appealing to them. There is no doubt that people are complex and sometimes find pleasure in the most unconventional type of relationship dynamics. Choosing our partner is a personal choice, but it does not guarantee a successful relationship. Attraction is less of a choice than it is the result of unconscious bias due to various factors. There is no clear correlation between extreme sexual attraction and a healthy relationship, although women tend to be deeply attracted to “bad boys” by nature.

There are times, however, when people are not looking for a healthy relationship, but rather one that is exciting. Nevertheless, over time, many people will renounce a life of unpredictability in order to create stability. So the question is,  if instability and unpredictability doesn’t guarantee success in a relationship, does that mean a stable and predictable relationship will be successful ? Unfortunately relationships don’t work that way. 

Two similar people can become predictable and offer few opportunities for growth and challenges. Having a partner who challenges you helps you grow. Humanity would not evolve or expand if we played it safe. Innovation results from pushing limits and trying new things. Mankind’s DNA blueprint is built on the innate need for exploration and self-development, without which we become stifled and dehumanized.

These are all moments that are surrounded by anticipations of the unknown which result is dopamine being released into the body. In addition to its role as a reward center, dopamine also contributes to memory, movement, motivation, mood, attention, and other body functions. Relationship complacency and predictability lead to a decline in motivation. The reason creative intelligence is attractive is because it’s the highest form of intelligence, it goes beyond knowledge recall and extends into knowledge creation.

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Partnering with a creative individual ignites not only what is, but what could be. On some level we all desire growth or to find someone who inspires to be better.  A person’s appearance is key to their attraction, just as their physical prowess, charisma, and intelligence all contribute to their success. However, one of these assets depreciates with time, whereas creative intelligence and confidence grows over time.

It is universally acknowledged that people find creative intelligence to be an attractive trait. An individual with creative intelligence is capable of handling new or unusual situations using their existing knowledge and skills. It is essential that you have imagination when you write a short story, paint a picture, or create any form of art. The reason this attracts people is because creativity is n’t predictable. Consider every time your heart and adrenaline pounded, whether it was your first date, your first kiss, a road trip somewhere new, or applying for your dream job. 

 People who are happy with their relationships do not usually consider alternatives (a concept known as “derogation of alternatives.The perception of attractive alternative partners is a major threat to people’s commitment to their romantic relationships. Scientists believe that derogating alternatives is a relationship-maintenance strategy used by romantically involved people to regulate their attraction to potential alternatives. 

By actively minimizing the perceived attractiveness of opposite sex, we derogate alternatives by employing cognitive and perceptual biases. As a result of motivation to maintain an existing relationship, romantically involved people devalue the attractiveness of an objectively attractive alternative partner. However this seems to be more common when couples are truly happy. Many studies have focused on the neural mechanisms involved in deliberate and intentional emotion-regulation strategies, but fewer have examined implicit emotion-regulation strategies.

In the course of time, a relationship develops layers to become something more profound, much like a work of art. It’s often said that women are, while men still need to become. What this means is that women often have an early advantage in society, we can capitalize on physical beauty and our sexuality while men are more valued for power and dominance, however many only achieve this status later on in life thus men are often driven not why what is but what they could become. Healthy relationships are built on open communication that allows both partners to express themselves without fear of judgment while both partners are willing to challenge each other.

Without challenges, there is no friction in a relationship, and friction maintains a spark. We are not able to generate friction or spark without differences, which is very much necessary to maintain not only a healthy and harmonious relationship, but also sexual attraction.  Romantic chemistry focuses on characteristics present between two people, including mutual interests, similarity, and intimacy, this often what we refer to as chemistry. The world of relationships can be a complex one at times, and there are times when we can get too focused on the idea of love or finding the right one that we forget to be the one. So even if you haven’t found the one, you can still find other things to love, like a shoes.  In the words of Carrie Bradshaw…


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