psychology of attraction

5 Things that Attract Us Others, According to Psychology

Whether you’ve got a fabulous bestie, are partnered up, happily married, enjoying a bit of fun with someone, or crushing on another person, what exactly is it that attracts you to them? Maybe you can name one or more reasons straight off the bat, or maybe you simply believe that they’re special and deserve some of your attention.

Either way, there are actually five things that have the power to attract people to one another, according to psychology. Can you relate to any of them?

What Attracts Us to Others?

Contrary to popular belief, there’s various research to suggest that opposites don’t really attract! Instead, it’s often similarities that draw two people together. Of course, as diverse as we are, there are couples who couldn’t be more different, yet still find themselves best friends, head over heels in love, or lusting after each other.

But when research is involved, here are five things that psychology has to say about what attracts us to others.

5 Things That Attract People to Each Other, According to Psychology

In short, we’ll take a peek at these five factors that influence attraction, discovered during research:

  • Similarities
  • Proximity 
  • Certain Conditions
  • Impressions
  • Physical Attractiveness 

1. Similarities Attract

In a 1965 study by Donn Byrne, 168 participants looked at an already-filled-in questionnaire completed by a total stranger. This questionnaire was comprised of questions about concerning their thoughts on premarital sex, their favourite TV shows, etc. Afterwards, they were asked to rate the stranger. 

The results showed that the participants were more attracted to those with whom they had things in common. It was also found that the proportion of similarity is more important than the overall number of similar attitudes. 

For example, having 7 out 10 similar traits (70 percent) showed more attraction as opposed to 30 similar traits out of 200 (15 percent).

2. Proximity Matters

When it comes to the proximity of two people and levels of attractiveness, a 1950 study looked at whether people were more inclined to be better friends with someone who lived nearby. And by nearby, we mean in the same dormitory.

This study looked at 260 married veterans living in MIT dormitory residences by asking them to name their closest friends. Interestingly, 41 percent of the names listed were of people who stayed a mere one door away from them. This percentage decreased as the door proximity increased, with 10 percent of participants naming one or more of their closest friends as being four doors away. 

In other words, subconsciously, we’re more likely to form closer friendships based on how close a person is to us.

3. Conditions Permitted

This was a rather extraordinary study, which focused on how one’s level of anxiety would influence their levels of attraction and arousal towards another. 85 men were recruited to either stand on a high, shaky suspension bridge, or a lower, more stable and less fearful bridge. 

While on the bridge, they were introduced to an attractive woman who asked them to fill in a questionnaire on Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) pictures (in other words, they had to tell stories about ambiguous pictures). The attractive woman then gave the recruited men her phone number “in case of any questions”.

Interestingly, it was concluded that the men who met this woman on the higher, more shaky bridge were more inclined to tell stories that were sexual in nature. They were also more likely to call the female than those on the lower and safer bridge. 

Why could this be? Perhaps misattribution of arousal, which is when one makes a mistake in assuming what is causing them to feel aroused. 

These results also check out due to the release of adrenaline, which too can increase one’s level of arousal.

4. Playing Hard to Get

It’s widely assumed that people gain energy from ‘the chase’ when it comes to finding a romantic or sexual partner, as many simply want what they can’t have. Interestingly, a study by Elliot Aronson and Darwyn Linder actually proved this assumption to be true.

Their research consisted of college students meeting an appointed person on a number of occasions under conditions which they believed to be by coincidence. However, this meeting was intentionally set up by the experimenter. 

After a series of meetings, the college students were able to eavesdrop on conversations the appointed person had about them.

The assessment criteria fell into four different categories: the evaluations were all highly positive, the evaluations were all quite negative, the first few evaluations were negative but gradually became positive, the first few evaluations were positive but gradually became negative.

Then, after eavesdropping, the college students revealed how they felt about the appointed person they were meeting. And, just as we assumed, the participants appeared to like the appointed person most when they “gossiped” about them by saying they initially had a negative reaction but, after time, had a positive reaction.

This simply goes to show that winning over people who had an initial negative impression of us is more rewarding than someone who liked us all along. 

5. Physical Attractiveness 

And last but not least, the criteria that a lot of people tend to base others off of: attractiveness

In a 1972 study, 60 undergraduates were given photos of men and women of varying levels of attractiveness. They were then asked to rate them on different criteria.

The results showed that the ‘more attractive’ people were associated with character traits such as being kind, outgoing, modest, sensitive, sociable, and interesting. 

Not just that, they also revealed that they believe the ‘more attractive’ people had better jobs, better marriages, and better lives in general. Isn’t that something!

Can you identify with any of these five things that seemingly attract us to others?