The psychology course I have been following features a Valentine’s Day lecture about love. Mostly, it is about what seems to make people attracted to one another, as demonstrated by psychological experiments.
Professor Peter Salovey, the guest lecturer, argues that we have empirical evidence for seven major causes of attraction. Three of them are fairly obvious, but very demonstrably important. The next four are more subtle, but are also supported by experimental investigation.
The big three:
- Proximity – we are more likely to get romantically involved with those who we live near
- Familiarity – the more we see a person, the more likely we are to get involved with them
- Similarity – apparently, opposites do not attract
The practical utility of this is obvious, for those looking for a romantic partner. Move to an area with people who you find attractive, and participate in social events with like-minded people, so as to improve your odds of being similar to and familiar with attractive people.
The more subtle four:
- Competence – the people who we like the very best are those that strike us as highly competent, but who make some sort of humanizing blunder
- Physical attractiveness – many people underestimate how important a factor this is for themselves
- An increasingly positive view – if someone seems to be warming towards us, it is highly interesting
- Mis-attribution of good feelings – we feel good or excited for a reason unrelated to a person, but wrongly attribute the feeling to them
These all also suggest dating strategies. The last two seem particularly easy to manipulate. It is also worth noting that we are most attracted to people who seem to be very exclusive in their choice of partners, but who we do not expect to be picky or difficult in our case. That may not be enough to constitute a Revolutionary New Dating Paradigm, but it might be helpful for some people.