Discover The Different Types Of Attraction

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated September 15, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I attracted to certain people?” or “What makes someone attracted to me?” The answer has a lot to do with attraction, and understanding its different forms can help us better understand our attractions.

In this article, we'll explore various physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual attraction types that draw us close to other people. We'll also look at how each form can affect our relationships meaningfully. So put on your detective hat and learn about the fascinating world of attraction!

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo
Learn To Understand Your Attraction

The Science Behind Attraction In Humans

It’s no secret that humans are attracted to each other. But what is it that makes us find someone attractive? The science behind this phenomenon has been studied for decades, and the results are fascinating.

The Role Of Pheromones 

Pheromones are chemicals released by living organisms that can affect the behavior or physiology of other members of their species.

In humans, pheromones have been found to play a role in attraction and mating. In addition, studies have found that some pheromones activate certain areas of the brain associated with sexual arousal, such as the hypothalamus and amygdala.

This suggests that pheromones may be essential in determining who we find attractive. 

The Role Of Hormones And Genetics

Hormones also play an essential role in human attraction and mating behavior. For example, testosterone and estrogen are hormones associated with sexual desire; higher levels can increase a person’s desire for a romantic partner. Additionally, hormones such as oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine, serotonin, and vasopressin have all been linked to various aspects of human romance and attachment. 

Genetics can also play a vital role in human attraction. For example, studies have shown that some people tend to be more attracted to those who carry similar genetic traits, known as “genetic compatibility” or “assortative mating.”

Romantic Attraction

Two theories can explain romantic attraction: evolutionary psychology and social exchange theory.

  • Evolutionary psychology suggests that some are attracted to those who would be good partners for reproduction and parenting. This means we're attracted to people with physical traits that would make them good parents (such as health, strength, and intelligence) and personality traits that could lead to a successful relationship (such as kindness, loyalty, and mutual respect). 
  • Social exchange theory suggests that some are attracted to people who will offer them the most rewards while demanding the least effort. This means that we look for someone who will provide us with resources (such as money or convenience) in exchange for our commitment and loyalty. 

How Does Romantic Attraction Work? 

Romantic attraction can take many forms depending on the individual involved. Some people may experience an instant connection when they meet someone new; others may take longer to develop feelings of attachment.

However, all types of romantic attraction involve some degree of emotional intimacy between two people. This might manifest as an intense physical connection or a deep emotional understanding between them. It could also affect common interests or goals—for example, wanting to raise a family or build a business together. 

In addition to these qualities, romantic attraction also involves communicating effectively with each other; reading subtle cues about how the other person is feeling; showing support for each other's dreams; and negotiating disagreements respectfully.

When all these factors come together, it can create an intense bond between two people beyond simple friendship or casual acquaintance—it's what makes up true romantic love! 

Aesthetic Attraction

Aesthetic attraction is an often-overlooked but essential concept. It refers to attraction based on a person’s looks or physical appearance without necessarily feeling a strong emotional connection.

This type of attraction can be directed towards a person of any gender, and it has been studied extensively by scientists in psychology and evolutionary biology.

What Is Aesthetic Attraction?

Aesthetic attraction is a form of physical attraction that involves no emotional connection or attachment. Instead, it is based purely on physical features such as facial features, hair color, body shape, etc.

It is not necessarily focused on sexual desire; instead, it can be directed toward anyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. 

Why Does Aesthetic Attraction Matter? 

Aesthetic attraction has been studied extensively in evolutionary biology and psychology due to its importance in mate selection.

In particular, scientists have found that some people are more likely to perceive people with symmetrical faces as more aesthetically attractive than those with asymmetrical faces. This phenomenon may be attributed to symmetry indicating good health and fertility in potential mates. 

Studies have also found that some people prefer partners who have similar physical characteristics such as eye color or skin tone. This may be because these traits indicate genetic compatibility and increase the chances of producing healthy offspring. 

Getty/Halfpoint Images

Physical Attraction 

It may come as no surprise that physical attractiveness is essential in determining who we are attracted to. Studies have shown that people tend to rate physically attractive individuals higher than unattractive individuals on several characteristics, such as intelligence, success, morality, and trustworthiness.

This suggests a “halo effect” wherein attractive people are automatically assumed to possess desirable qualities regardless of any evidence of such qualities. In addition to this halo effect, our brains naturally respond differently when exposed to attractive faces than unattractive ones.

A study by researchers found that participants displayed increased activity in areas of the brain associated with reward processing when presented with attractive faces compared to less attractive ones. This suggests that our brains respond positively when exposed to physically attractive faces and helps explain why we might be more likely to form an initial attraction based on physical appearance alone. 

Emotional Attraction

Studies have shown that emotional attraction is formed when two people have similar values and beliefs. Some of us are drawn to those who think like us because it creates feelings of familiarity and comfort.

When we feel comfortable with someone, our brain releases oxytocin, often called the “love hormone,” because it helps us form bonds with others. Oxytocin also helps reduce stress levels and increase empathy towards others, strengthening the connection between two individuals. 

Another important factor in emotional attraction is the ability to be vulnerable. When we feel safe enough around another person to express our innermost thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or rejection, it can form an even stronger bond between us. This vulnerability may allow both people to understand each other deeper and develop an emotional connection that is hard to break. 

It is also important to note that emotional attraction can be towards any gender. While physical attractiveness may play a role in initial curiosity, emotional appeal doesn't need to occur.

Intellectual Attraction

Research suggests that intellectual attraction is linked to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure and reward.

When two people engage in stimulating conversation, they may experience the same kind of pleasure as if they were eating an enjoyable meal or having sex. In other words, engaging in meaningful conversation with someone you find interesting can be just as rewarding as any other pleasurable activity. 

The brain also releases oxytocin during moments of intellectual connection. Oxytocin is the “cuddle hormone” because it helps build trust and intimacy between two people.

When you have a deep conversation with someone, your body releases oxytocin which helps create feelings of trust and connection between you. This increased level of oxytocin can lead to more meaningful relationships over time. 

Get Help Understanding Attraction In Therapy

Therapy can be valuable in understanding attraction and gaining critical insight into our relationships. We can better recognize our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors regarding attraction from a therapeutic setting. Awareness of our attractions helps us form healthier relationships with ourselves and others by being conscious of how our thoughts impact our behavior in potential connections.

Therapy provides a safe space to learn about, challenge, and modify negative self-talk about attraction and replace them with comments that foster understanding and growth. With the guidance of a therapist, individuals gain a more objective perspective on their attractions, which can lead to positive changes in self-concept and ultimately improved relationship dynamics.

Getty/AnnaStills
Learn To Understand Your Attraction

Therapy is a powerful tool for understanding and harnessing attraction. Scientific research has demonstrated its effectiveness in providing insights into the various factors that come into play when people develop feelings of attraction for one another. For example, physiological, cognitive, and emotional responses found in close relationships can all be explored within the context of therapy. This understanding can facilitate successful relationships and interactions between two or more individuals.

By recognizing how different elements of attraction combine with one person’s psychology and behavior, we can gain greater control over our interactions and maintain healthy relationships despite challenges. Consequently, therapy can become an invaluable resource to help us identify underlying causes of attraction while also opening up the potential to create positive changes in how we perceive each other.

Takeaway

Attraction is a complex and exciting topic with many forms that can affect our relationships meaningfully. By understanding the different types of attraction, we can better understand ourselves and the people around us.

Explore attraction and connection with a professional

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