Written by Mallorie Miller-Smith
What determines our attraction to other people? Attraction is a key component to successfully beginning a romantic relationship. For this blog post, I will discuss what makes us like each other. Specifically, I will address research about whether attraction is an individual choice - as we believe it is – or if it is due to biological and situational variants that are out of our control.
Ultimately, humans make the final decision in whether or not to act on an attraction; however, several key components affect that decision. When considering the influence of biological and circumstantial aspects, it is important to note how large of an impact these factors have on an individual. Individuals often underestimate the influence of these factors when they think they, individually, are freely deciding whether or not to pursue a relationship. If you were to ask someone why they initially chose their current partner, they are unlikely to tell you that it had anything to do with the misattribution of arousal because they had just gotten off a roller coaster before meeting their new date (e.g., Dutton & Aron, 1974). Likewise, they are unlikely to think about how hungry they were when they met had anything to do with the person to whom they were attracted (Swami & Tovée, 2006). Yet, these conditions may have had a lot to do with why individuals were initially attracted to each other. I will now offer some evidence to support this claim.
A surprising finding in social psychology is the sheer number of circumstantial determinants that affect attraction. These range from the wearing red clothes (Elliot & Niesta, 2008; Elliot, Niesta, Greitemeyer, Lichtenfeld, Gramzow, Maier, & Liu, 2010) to being surrounded by attractive people (Walker & Vul, 2014). The person who approaches the other initially is typically found to be more attractive, for both men and women (Eastwick & Finkel, 2009). There is good news for musicians: men carrying guitar cases (vs. gym bags or nothing at all) were rated to be significantly more attractive, believed to be due to onlookers' possible perception of the men's musical and intellectual abilities (Guéguen, Meineri, & Fischer-Lokou, 2014). Other factors include who approaches whom initially (Eastwick & Finkel, 2009), smiling vs. not smiling (Tracy & Beall, 2011), eye contact (Ewing, Rhodes, & Pellicano, 2010), and having a beard (Dixson & Brooks, 2013).
Or Is It All In Our Biology?
Evolutionary theory supports the idea that our primary goal is to survive and produce viable offspring who can carry on our genetic material. Under this theory, it would be most beneficial for men to mate with as many healthy women as possible, while women should procure a stable, providing partner to help raise her offspring. Research supports this by finding evidence that women are choosier about partners because they need someone with resources to support them and their offspring, while men focus on women who can provide healthy offspring and sexual loyalty (Buss, 1989). Researchers have found whether or not a woman is ovulating plays a large part in attraction, as well. For example, women find men with more masculine features (as compared to men with more feminine features) attractive when they are ovulating, while men have been shown to change their mating behavior when around an ovulating female (Gildersleeve, Haselton & Fales, 2014; Miller & Maner, 2011).
While there is evidence for both sides of the argument, it is easy to see that that our biology does have a certain influence on the person to whom we are attracted. Additionally, due to the large amount of evidence available, we must conclude that situational variables have a large impact on attraction. In conclusion, there is a large amount of evidence for a diverse array of influences, including circumstantial and biological effects, that provide a shortcut for humans to create and maintain social relationships. Ultimately, however, all of these variables come together to help us make the choice to initiate a relationship.
Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12(1), 1-49. doi:10.1017/S0140525X00023992
Dixson, B. J., & Brooks, R. C. (2013). The role of facial hair in women's perceptions of men's attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(3), 236-241. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.02.003
Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30(4), 510- 517. doi:10.1037/h0037031
Eastwick, P. W., & Finkel, E. J. (2008). Sex differences in mate preferences revisited: Do people know what they initially desire in a romantic partner? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(2), 245-264. doi:10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.52
Elliot, A. J., & Niesta, D. (2008). Romantic red: Red enhances men's attraction to women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1150-1164. doi:10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2060
Elliot, A. J., Niesta Kayser, D., Greitemeyer, T., Lichtenfeld, S., Gramzow, R. H., Maier, M. A., & Liu, H. (2010). Red, rank, and romance in women viewing men. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139(3), 399-417. doi:10.1037/a0019689
Ewing, L., Rhodes, G., & Pellicano, E. (2010). Have you got the look? Gaze direction affects judgements of facial attractiveness. Visual Cognition, 18(3), 321-330. doi:10.1080/13506280902965599
Gildersleeve, K., Haselton, M. G., & Fales, M. R. (2014). Do women’s mate preferences change across the ovulatory cycle? A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 140(5), 1205-1259. doi:10.1037/a0035438
Guéguen, N., Meineri, S., & Fischer-Lokou, J. (2014). Men’s music ability and attractiveness to women in a real-life courtship context. Psychology Of Music, 42(4), 545-549. doi:10.1177/0305735613482025
Miller, S. L., & Maner, J. K. (2011). Ovulation as a male mating prime: Subtle signs of women's fertility influence men's mating cognition and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(2), 295-308. doi:10.1037/a0020930
Swami, V., & Tovée, M. J. (2006). Does hunger influence judgments of female physical attractiveness? British Journal of Psychology, 97(3), 353-363. doi:10.1348/000712605X80713
Tracy, J. L., & Beall, A. T. (2011). Happy guys finish last: The impact of emotion expressions on sexual attraction. Emotion, 11(6), 1379-1387. doi:10.1037/a0022902
Walker, D., & Vul, E. (2014). Hierarchical encoding makes individuals in a group seem more attractive. Psychological Science, 25(1), 230-235. doi: 10.1177/0956797613497969
Written by Suzanne C. Amadi
The presence of interracial romantic relationships is becoming more salient than in previous years, with 1 in 10 heterosexual marriages in the United States consisting of partners of a different racial background (Jayson, 2012). Although this increase has become apparent within the general population, there are certain factors affecting one’s willingness to date someone of a different race that have only recently been examined. These relationship constructs, including one’s similarity to and familiarity with individuals of a different race, have begun to spark the interest of relationship researchers. Additionally, the role of beliefs and ideologies about race has recently been shown to be associated with romantic attraction to partners both within and outside of one’s race (Brooks & Neville, 2016).
Interracial Attraction based on Similarity and Familiarity
One’s perception of and experiences with individuals of the same or a different race has an impact on dating and attraction. Researchers found that similarity in racial grouping significantly influences attraction (Tenney, Turkheimer, & Oltmanns, 2009). Additionally, the idea of proximity also influences attraction, as individuals who are physically close to one another may develop increased attraction and be more likely to enter a potential romantic relationship (Miller, Perlman, & Brehm, 2007). Regarding interracial dating, researchers, including Yancey (2002) and Clark-Ibanez and Felmlee (2004), found that individuals who have consistent contact or increases in networking with people of different races or ethnicities were more likely to date interracially.
Interracial Attraction based on Racial Ideologies
Interracial Attraction based on Racial Ideologies, Similarity, and Familiarity
The researchers also surveyed the men on their beliefs about race by measuring the participants’ levels of endorsement of a color-blind ideology and a multicultural ideology. The researchers found that white men who endorsed a color-blind ideology had lower ratings of romantic attraction towards women of a different race, while black men's endorsement of a color-blind ideology did not impact their attraction to women of different races. However, both black and white men who endorsed multiculturalism had increased romantic attraction to women of a different race. Additionally, for black men, greater interracial contact was associated with increased intra-racial attraction.
Why Is the Connection between Racial Beliefs and Interracial Dating Important?
When it comes to dating and attraction, contrary to popular belief, race does still matter. Race matters due to the racial beliefs and ideologies that people hold. These findings regarding racial beliefs suggest that it takes more than just believing that race is an unimportant factor in society or the absence of prejudice to foster romantic attraction toward others of a different race (Brooks & Neville, 2016). However, individuals who recognize and positively evaluate the racial and ethnic differences of others tend to accept the idea of interracial dating, as this fosters connectedness with another, regardless of race.
Brooks, J. E., & Neville, H. A. (2016). Interracial attraction among college men: The influence of ideologies, familiarity, and similarity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1-18. doi: 10.1177/0265407515627508
Clark‐Ibáñez, M., & Felmlee, D. (2004). Interethnic relationships: The role of social network diversity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(2), 293-305.
Eastwick, P. W., Richeson, J. A., Son, D., & Finkel, E. J. (2009). Is love colorblind? Political orientation and interracial romantic desire. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1258-1268.
George, D., & Yancey, G. (2004). Taking stock of America's attitudes on cultural diversity: An analysis of public deliberation on multiculturalism, assimilation and intermarriage. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 35, 1-19.
Jayson, S. (2012, April 26). Census shows big jump in interracial couples. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com.
Miller, R.S., Perlman, D., & Brehm, S.S. (2007). Intimate relationships. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Tenney, E. R., Turkheimer, E., & Oltmanns, T. F. (2009). Being liked is more than having a good personality: The role of matching. Journal of Research in Personality, 43(4), 579-585.
Yancey, G. (2002). Who interracially dates: An examination of the characteristics of those who have interracially dated. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 33, 179-190.
Written by Taylor Ritchey
Cunningham (1979) found that how sunny it is outside significantly affected the gratuity that restaurant customers left for their server. Cunningham (1979) also found that sunny weather makes people more helpful. Participants who were asked to participate in a survey were more likely to comply on sunny days, when compared to compliance on cloudy days (Cunningham, 1979). In fact, sunny weather may also help people be accepted into college. Simonsohn (2007) examined university admission decisions and found that university administrators placed more weight on candidates' academic attributes when they were evaluated on cloudy days; whereas, they put more weight on nonacademic attributes on sunny days.
Tell me More, Tell Me More
In an experiment that was performed by Gueguen (2013), male undergraduate research assistants approached females and asked for their phone numbers. These interactions occurred in a town near the Atlantic coast of France on sunny days or on cloudy days, with average temperature being the same in both conditions. Confederates, who were rated as high in physical attractiveness and were blind to the hypothesis of the experiment, would approach the women and recite the following line: "Hello. My name’s Antoine. I just want to say that I think you’re really pretty. I have to go to work this afternoon, and I was wondering if you would give me your phone number. I’ll phone you later, and we can have a drink together someplace." If the women complied and provided their phone number, the confederates said, “See you soon.” If the women refused to provide their phone number, the confederates said, “Too bad. It’s not my day. Have a nice afternoon!’’ Gueguen (2013) found that the women were more likely to give the men their phone number when they were approached on sunny days.
You Better Shape Up
If you already have a partner, it may brighten both parties' moods to go on a date when the weather is bright and sunny too. The sun leads people to be more generous, more likely to get into college, and more likely to fall in love, so regarding social interactions, it may be best to wait for the perfect sunny day to take action.
Cunningham, M. R. (1979). Weather, mood, and helping behavior: Quasi experiments with the sunshine Samaritan. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1947–1956.
Guéguen, N. (2013). Weather and courtship behavior: A quasi-experiment with the flirty sunshine. Social Influence, 8(4), 312-319.
Simonsohn, U. (2007). Clouds make nerds look good: Field evidence of the influence of incidental factors on decision making. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 20, 143–152.
Written by Savanna Yelverton
What is a hug?
Hugging is known as a physical expression of affection. Hugs are used to “express reunion after separation”, as a greeting, or as a parting gesture to say goodbye (Pillay, 2010). Over time, hugging has taken many forms, including ones that can be considered uncomfortable. Each type of hug is complex and is used in different situations (Pillay, 2010).
Types of Hugs
The Sideways Hug: This hug is where the pair hug from the side of their body, rather than by facing each other. This type of hug is most often used by men. “As they approach each other, the thought of their bodies colliding becomes a higher priority than the politeness of the hug" (Pillay, 2010). This kind of hug initially feels uncomfortable but provides a sense of relief to both individuals once the hug is over (Pillay, 2010).
The “Pleased to Meet You Belly Button” (PYMBB) Hug: This type of hug is a rare one, but it occurs in instances of an extreme height difference. If two people of varying heights engage in a hug, they may encounter strange body part interactions. For a person who is significantly shorter than the person being hugged, a face and belly button encounter may occur (Pillay, 2010). This hug is characterized by a great amount of discomfort and may occur quickly, as a result.
The Shoulder Hug: Similar to the sideways hug, this type of hug is used between two individuals who are showing appraisal of another’s actions but are not committed to a full expression of affection. This will result in a “shoulder pat with one hand” and a smile (Pillay, 2010). Eye contact is made during this hug, but this is to assure the other that no further affection will be given (Pillay, 2010).
The Elbow Hug: This type of hug is initiated with a smile, and each person’s hands are placed on the elbows of the other. It usually takes place when two people have “a mutual understanding that they do not want to wrinkle each other’s clothes” (Pillay, 2010). Other gestures that commonly accompany this hug include the “cheek squeeze” or a “you look great!” (Pillay, 2010).
The Benefits of Hugging
Another benefit of hugging is its ability to lead to improvements in our physical health. Humans have “pressure receptors” on their skin, and the sensation of being touched activates them. These receptors then “send signals to the vagus nerve,” which can lead to lower blood pressure (Holmes, 2014). Additionally, as shown in an experiment that was performed at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, heart health is also improved by hugging (Holmes, 2014). “Participants who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of ten beats per minute, compared to the five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment” (Holmes, 2014).
Holmes, L. (2014). 7 Reasons Why We Should Be Giving More Hugs. The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
Pillay, S. (2010). The Art of Hugging: When A Hug Is Not All That It's Cracked Up To Be. Psychology Today. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Jessica Utley
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor