If it sounds to you like some of the mystery and fun has been sucked out of the topic, think again. Psychologists have shown that many things about attraction that most people (self-help gurus included) take for granted aren’t necessarily true. Opposites very rarely attract, physical looks matter but often not as much as people think, and playing hard-to-get is problematic at best. But the science of attraction does much more than just debunk old myths: It has also shown us why we prefer mirror images of our own faces, how red really is the colour of love, why symmetrical faces are (sometimes) more attractive, and how love is often blind. Ever wondered about those odd couplings (the unattractive man with an incredibly attractive wife, for example) or why many relationships don’t last the distance? The psychology of attraction helps explain that too.
Join me here at YouBeauty as, over the coming months, I take you on a tour of the science of attraction. We’ll learn why we’re drawn to others and what happens when we’re deprived of social interaction, why we’re attracted to some people and repelled by others, what determines how romantic relationships are initiated and evolve over time, what it means to be in love, why we sometimes fall out of love, and much more besides. Before we head off, though, let me just get a couple of things out the way.
First, this won’t be a step-by-step guide to getting the partner of your dreams. Psychological research on attraction discusses what works and what doesn’t on a general (or population) level, which often makes it difficult to apply research findings to individual cases. In any case, life outside the laboratory is often shaped by the surreptitious hand of chance (or what psychologists like to call serendipity), which makes the job of the psychologist just that little bit more difficult when trying to give individually-tailored romantic advice. Second, as someone who studies attraction, I’m sometimes accused of not being a “real” psychologist. “Real” psychologists spend their time researching more important questions in life, not the trivial matter of attraction. But, as we’ll see next month, studying and understanding attraction is not as trivial as some would claim.
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