8 Tidbits on the Psychology of Attraction To up Your Dating Game

couple embracing

Stocksy/Santi Nunez

Oh, if only dating were easier. If only we knew, before choosing a location to meet, picking out an outfit, and pumping ourselves up for the occasion, whether it would all be worth it. Would she find my joke funny? Maybe. Is there a chance he'll be interested in my favorite hobby? Only time will tell. The unknowns abound in meeting someone new, so understanding the psychology of attraction can help up your dating game. Researchers have long worked to understand the scientific aspects behind the elusive spark, posing questions and conducting studies around what makes someone appear more attractive, from how they sound, to what they wear, to how familiar they are. It's often not conclusive work, but when you're going out on a limb to meet a stranger, you'll take all the clues you can get.

What Is the Psychology of Attraction?

The psychology of attraction refers to the study of the reasons why we're attracted to certain people over others.

We found eight tidbits of information that describe the psychology of attraction so that you can remind yourself of these results as you date. Maybe they won't exactly make the process easier, but they should help you keep some perspective as you put yourself out there.

Read on for eight tidbits about the psychology of attraction.

Attractiveness Is Something You Have a Say In

In a 1997 study by Mehrabian and Blum, research found that the most attractive qualities in a person came down to self-care. The two researchers surveyed 117 male and female university students with 76 different photos of the opposite sex and asked them to rank their attractiveness and corresponding emotional response.

The most "attractive" features came down to good posture, noticeable grooming, nice-fitting clothing, a seemingly positive attitude, and a healthy weight. While that last quality is definitely debatable, we like that we can score points just by practicing self-care and staying optimistic.

Wear Red on a First Date

inspiring new year resolutions
Melodie Jeng/Getty Images

A 2010 study by Kayser, Elliot, and Feltman found that heterosexual women who wore red when chatting with heterosexual men were deemed to be more attractive. The men asked the crimson-wearing women more intimate questions than those wearing blue or green, and the men wanted to sit closer to them, too.

Conversely, heterosexual women who were asked to view men wearing red or standing in front of a red background saw them as more attractive, too. It has to do with red being a primal color that's associated with health and fertility. If you'd like to see for yourself, try wearing red on your next date. 

It's Common To Develop Feelings for Someone You Know

As anyone who has fallen for a friend knows, a person's attractiveness is much more than skin deep. A 2014 study by Paul Eastwick and Lucy Hunt found that perceptions of a person can change with time and that the shift can either decrease or increase their level of attraction. So if a person was seen as physically attractive or perhaps not as physically attractive at first sight, that can change as their interests, sense of humor, and other shared qualities become known. This process is called "slow love."

Pay Attention To Your Body Language

A 2011 experiment by Fennis and Stel found that using smaller gestures, talking slowly, and leaning backward are non-threatening cues that allow a date—who is, after all, a stranger—to feel more comfortable. Watch as they loosen up, and then feel free to get more animated. This balance between nonverbal cues is deemed attractive, since you're honoring personal space and later showcasing your personality.

Scent and Sound Play a Part in Physical Attractiveness

In 2017, a group of psychologists published a review from the University of Wroclaw in Poland stating that the voice and smell of someone can be a biological determination of their heterosexual attraction.

According to their work, a woman's natural odor indicates how fertile she may be, just as a man's scent can hint at his level of dominance. That's also true of someone's voice, which can cue at their ability to work as a team. But Popular Science says that more research is likely needed on this theory, so don't pin all your hopes on it.

Men Experience "Love at First Sight" More Than Women

Janelle Marie Lloyd—Best dating sites over 40


While the phenomenon of falling in love with someone immediately is still up for debate, a 2017 study from Zsok, Haucke, De Wit, and Barelds found that when it is supposedly experienced, men are more likely to admit it.

The researchers asked 400 men and women to complete surveys on romantic interests they had just met, and men said that they felt that fluttering feeling in the process—and with more than one person. The researchers weren't sure why, and obviously noted that physical attraction isn't the same as love, but it could be because women are arguably more selective in who they choose as a partner.

Mindfulness Can Spur Romantic Attraction

You've probably been told that maintaining a bit of mystery at the beginning of a relationship is smart—and that's often true. But when you're in the presence of a partner, practicing mindfulness can potentially increase your attractiveness.

A 2015 paper by Janz, Pepping, and Halford found that heterosexual women thought men were more attractive when they were actively involved in the conversation rather than acting aloof. The same correlation wasn't made for heterosexual men talking to women, and the study says that it needs more research overall. All of this being said, it doesn't hurt to pay attention to your date!

Genetics Impact Who We Find Attractive

It should come as no surprise that humans inherently find symmetry attractive. The balance of facial and bodily features can be a primal hint at a person’s fertility and the strength of their genes, as is often known, but there’s yet another aspect of genetics that’s intriguing. In 2005, psychologist J. Philippe Rushton found that similar genetics determine 34% of friendship and mate selection. In other words, that’s why happy couples can look alike.

Article Sources
Brides takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Montoya RM, Horton RS. Understanding The Attraction ProcessSoc Personal Psychol Compass. 2020;14:e12526. doi:10.1111/spc3.12526

  2. Mehrabian A, Blum JS. Physical Appearance, Attractiveness, and the Mediating Role of EmotionsCurrent Psychol. 1997;16(1):20-42. doi:10.1007/s12144-997-1013-0

  3. Kayser DN, Elliot AJ, Feltman R. Red and Romantic Behavior in Men Viewing Women. Eur J Soc Psychol. 2010;40:901-908. doi:10.1002/ejsp.757

  4. Hunt LL, Eastwick PW, Finkel EJ. Leveling the Playing Field: Longer Acquaintance Predicts Reduced Assortative Mating on Attractiveness. Psychol Sci. 2015;26(7):1046-53. doi:10.1177/0956797615579273

  5. Fennis BM, Stel M. The Pantomime of Persuasion: Fit Between Nonverbal Communication and Influence StrategiesJ Exp Soc Psychol. 2011;47(4):806–810. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2011.02.015

  6. Groyecka A, Pisanski K, Sorokowska A, Havlíček J, Karwowski M, Puts D, Roberts SC, Sorokowski P. Attractiveness Is Multimodal: Beauty Is Also in the Nose and Ear of the Beholder. Front Psychol. 2017;8:778. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00778

  7. Human Attraction is Weird and Confusing - And it's About Way More Than Looks. Popular Science. May 18, 2017.

  8. Zsok F, Haucke M, De Wit CY, Barelds DPH. What Kind of Love is Love at First Sight? An empirical investigation. Pers Relat. 2017;24:869-885. doi:10.1111/pere.12218

  9. Janz P, Pepping CA, Halford WK. Individual Differences in Dispositional Mindfulness and Initial Romantic Attraction: A Speed Dating ExperimentPers Individ Diff. 2015;82:14–19. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2015.02.025

  10. Rushton JP, Bons TA. Mate Choice and Friendship in Twins: Evidence for Genetic Similarity. Psychol Sci. 2005;16(7):555-9. doi:10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01574.x

Related Stories