- Getty Images/Frazer Harrison
Happy Valentine’s Day!
If you’re eating heart-shaped chocolates alone in a bathrobe this Tuesday, don’t worry: Society doesn’t get to tell you the right way to celebrate the life of a martyred third-century Catholic saint – and also, love and attraction are weird and mysterious things.
There’s a lot we don’t understand about love – to the degree that we’re even sure it exists as a meaningful psychological state outside of social constructs. And there’s a lot that’s idiosyncratic to individual people and couples.
That’s why a lot of research into why we mate is bizarre to the point of incoherence – cultural norms as well as oddities in research methods can create a lot of noise. Yet it turns out there is a lot of science about why people fall in love that is at once super strange and actually fairly credible.
Keep in mind that no one study is enough to draw definite, broad conclusions. That’s especially true because this research tends to focus on the specific behaviors of heterosexual undergraduate students at the universities where researchers work.
Still, there’s a lot of fascinating knowledge out there about our habits of love and attraction.
Here are nine of the most interesting findings:
1. People tend to fall in love with other people who are like them. Shared values, life experiences, levels of attractiveness, and age can all make a major difference.
- Rafi Letzter/Tech Insider
2. If you want someone to fall in love with you, then it might help to resemble their opposite-sex parent. That can mean hair and eye color but also age. Children of young parents tend to seek out young partners more often.
Source: Evolution & Human Behavior
3. There’s some evidence that scent can play a role in attraction. Ovulating women, for example, may prefer the scents of men with more testosterone. And men may prefer the scents of women at certain times in their menstrual cycles.
- Tech Insider/Madison Malone Kircher
Also, check out our review of a site that matches people based on how they smell after not showering.
4. If you keep an open posture, then that can make you seem less closed off — and more inviting and attractive.
5. Height can also play a major role in attractiveness — especially for men — in the short term and long term.
6. Sharing thrilling or scary experiences looks like a great way to jump-start attraction. So maybe skip that coffee date for some skydiving?
7. If you and your crush live close to each other, then it’s more likely to turn into something because you can get to know each other through accidental run-ins. At least, that’s the case for college students in their dorms.
Source: American Psychologist
8. Smiling is another great way to seem attractive. Research suggests that many people are just drawn to more positive partners.
- Caroline McCredie / Getty
Source: Cognition & Emotion
9. The best way to fall in love with someone is to get to know him or her. One widely known study showed this by having pairs of strangers ask each other just 36 questions in 45 minutes. The results demonstrated exactly how people could build intimacy with almost anyone — if they tried.
- bigbirdz / Flickr