The Strange Science of Attraction

Attraction still mystifies scientists, why one person is attracted to certain people or even objects and not others. However, science is getting closer to identifying the components that equal desire between two people. As seen in this week’s Taboo: Strange Passions, what a person desires is sometimes not what other people consider normal. Is it a choice though or does our history and physiology make the decision for us? Can we help what attracts us, even if it is Taboo? No one is certain, but science has agreed on a few surprising things that drive us.

The Smell of Love
Many people argue that who turns our head has more to do with evolution than with anything else. Studies have shown that odor is one of the things which signifies if an individual is healthy and has compatible genetics. Scientists now believe that odors play a tremendous role in who we are attracted to and whether or not we connect with them. Researchers Manfred Milinski and Claus Wedekind have found that a group of immune system genes—the major histocompatibility complex (MHC)—influences women’s attraction to men’s body odors. Researchers such as Karl Grammer and Elizabeth Oberzaucher have also shown in research that when women are ovulating, they produce copulins, a scent that attracts men. Men do not know it is happening, but when they catch the scent of  copulins their testosterone levels rise. A man will then secrete androstenone, an odor that repels women who aren’t ovulating.

Sway and Swagger
It may be no surprise that attraction had much to do with the human body’s hip to waist ratio. Research has shown that we make decisions about gender by quickly evaluating this ratio with a glance. A bigger difference in size between the hips and the waist, equates to female, a lesser difference, a male. Once we have established gender, the difference in this ratio can also make a difference in how attracted we are to the individual. Surprisingly, it’s not just the shape of the body we are examining, but the body’s movement that leads to further attraction. Texas A&M University professor Louis G. Tassinary and co-author Kerri Johnson of New York University published a paper in 2007 that examined how the movement of the body appeals. It turned out that the attractiveness ratings for women increased by about 50 percent when they walked with a hip sway, and attractiveness ratings for men more than doubled when they walked with a swagger in their shoulders. So if you are looking to attract, you might want to work it!

Of course, attraction is far more complicated than your scent and your walk. There is no doubt though that much of it is subconscious, whether it is programmed or an effect of some something that happened to us as children. Attraction may also be influenced by our culture. One thing is certain and that is that what creates desire is unique to every individual. And not every individual has passions that match with society’s norms. Discover how some individuals are willing to embrace desire and passions that many would consider taboo.  

Tune in to Taboo: Strange Passions on Sunday August 19th at 10 PM et/pt.

Comments

  1. […] to National Geographic online, scientists are still puzzled by attraction. Why one person is attracted to certain people […]