What Causes Attraction? The Answer Will Surprise You

by Myla Cruz

According to new study published in the journal National Academy of Sciences, we are attracted to people whose emotions we can easily understand, rather than just a pretty face. This, researchers say, may be in part due to matching neural circuitry.

Why The Need For Emotional Connection?


“Being able to comprehend another person’s intentions and emotions is essential for successful social interaction,” says study author Silke Anders, a professor of Social and Affective Neuroscience at the University of Lübeck. “To accomplish a common goal, partners must understand and continuously update information about their partner’s current intentions and motivation, anticipate the other’s behavior, and adapt their own behavior accordingly.”

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Here's How The Study Worked:


Anders and her fellow researchers had a team of 90 participants watch video clips of women who facially expressed fear or sadness in order to determine whether there is a neural mechanism that determines a person’s ability to read another’s emotions and become attracted to them. After watching the videos, the study participants were asked to judge how the women felt and how confident in their interpretations. 

Researchers found an intriguing correlation: the more certain a person was about how a woman was feeling, the more attracted they were to her. Additionally, higher levels of certainty and attraction were also associated with more activity in the area of the brain that deals with interpreting and processing rewards. Researchers suggests that the ability to read someone successfully activates the brain’s reward system and thus, spurs attraction.

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So, What Does It All Mean?


“What I believe makes our findings really exciting is the fact that understanding and personal attraction seem to depend on both the sender’s brain and the perceiver’s brain, and on how well they match,” says Anders. “If the emotional signals sent by a sender—for example a facial expression of fear or sadness—can efficiently be processed by the perceiver’s brain, then their reward system will fire and they will feel attracted to the sender.”

Anders points out differences in brain circuitry may be be responsible for missed platonic and romantic connections too. “If communication does not work as smoothly as expected, this might not always mean that sender or perceiver are not interested in communicating, it could simply mean that the overlap of their neural vocabulary is not yet large enough,” she says.

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While the study findings are quite alluring in terms of gauging what can make individuals “click,” the study size was small, so additional research on the topic in the coming years will be needed to further conclude the findings. In any case, the correlation of understanding one’s emotions and heightened levels of attraction is still quite amazing and a great way to base new friendships and relationships. Get to mingling!

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Tell us in the comments: Do you agree with this study's conclusions? Why or why not?

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