We would all like to believe that we have some sort of criteria that determines what we deem acceptable for a partner. This could range between anything from a well-paying job to neatly-trimmed toenails, and on some degree, we do have a say in the people we date.
However, as a psychology student, I once studied about the factors that cause attraction, and some of the things I read and realized were rather contradicting to what we currently believe.
According to the likes of Eagly (1991), Feingold (1992), Moreland and Beach (1992), Hartfield and Rapson (1992), and Berscheid and Reis (1998), we are more in control of the level of attraction we have for someone than we might think.
The four factors that cause attraction are as follows (but while I list them down, consider how differently we perceive things)…
1. Physical Attractiveness
While the professionals say that physical beauty is a main factor in influencing our selection of people, how many times have you heard someone say that beauty doesn’t matter? These days, nobody wants to admit that we consider good-looks to be an issue. We’d rather be a part of the noble few that really sees beyond the outside, and therefore would never own up to the possibility that we want both inner and outer beauty.
The ‘truth’ of the matter is that we actually do size people up according to looks, among the first few things, and we might be doing this on an unconscious level – that we are unaware of it.
The more we see them, the more likely we are to be attracted – that’s what they tell us, anyway. Now, on some level, this may be blatantly true, because consider how much time we spend around someone we want to get to know, and eventually it’s just bound to happen, but consider that on the grounds of virtual reality and you’ll find that it’s even more astounding!
People can now generate relationships over a computer screen, but how would they have known that back then when cyberspace wasn’t as big a deal as it is now? This might mean that it isn’t the physical factor that attracts us, but the inside that counts for a little more, which holds up a pretty good argument against Factor 1. How DO they fall in love in cyberspace, if not for what’s inside? Oh, and this is assuming we’re back in the days when webcam was a luxury.
This then breaks down to four smaller categories – demographic similarity, attitudinal similarity, similarity in physical attractiveness, and similarity in interests and experiences. Whatever happened to ‘opposites attract’? How would we then go on to explain the phenomenon of one ToDieFor partner when the other looks like SomethingTheCatDraggedIn? How we go about the story of the handsome prince falling in love with a sweet little peasant girls from the suburbs? And what about those couples like Dharma and Greg?
Do we really want to be with someone who is a lot like ourselves? To what degree until it becomes narcissistic?
4. Reciprocity of Liking
‘We like those who like us, and say nice things about us‘ (Berscheid & Reis, 1998)
When we were kids in the playground, the fairer sex might have adhered to that theory, hurling all the possible admiration, affection, and attention we could muster to the boys that gave us butterflies, but they, however, pulled on our pigtails and trampled our sweet little faces into the mud when they had an inkling of a feeling. Complete, utter self-denial, and they acted out in the worst possible manner to prove that so.
These days, even, we make things so frustratingly complicated when we come to terms with an attraction, and more often than not, it’s a lot of mixed signals out there before the message finally gets across. We think excessive compliments are a reason to run for the hills, so where’s the fine line between courting and creepy?
Personally, I think there’s some truth to what the scientists say, but when put into account for the current day, it doesn’t add up and therefore we should all collectively work on a whole new list of factors that are a little more up-to-date. I, for one, don’t think trimmed toenails are too much to ask for…
What do you think should make ‘the list’?
Attraction may come in many forms, enjoy the clip from Laws of Attraction…
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