Here is another talk about the science ofhumans finding other humansto love. Take what you like and leave the rest!
Your eyes meet and your heart skips a beat. Instantly, you feel attracted to her. Her voice sounds like angels singing and everything she says resonates with you. She could be the one… Maybe you’re soul mates?
Or… maybe it’s just the coffee.
Coffee??? What does coffee have to do with it?
Everyone wants a relationship that has that kind of spark. Even if it’s not instantaneous, we want to feel attracted to our partners – connected and comfortable. For some of us, it’s one of the top things on our priorities lists. In this third installment of “Making the Priority List” I’ll be talking about chemistry and the not-so-obvious psycho physiological mechanisms that make you feel it.
Chemistry and attraction are really important drivers in creating and building a new relationship. Initial attraction stimulates you to continue pursuing a relationship – and not just romantic relationships. When you make a new friend, the thing that motivates you to build that relationship is an initial attraction: you have a shared interest, you resonate with her personality, or you want to be like her. Everyone knows what attraction feels like… you either feel it or you don’t. What we struggle with is why we are attracted to some people and not others. Sometimes the first time you meet someone you instantly feel attracted to him/her. But sometimes attraction can grow over time. So what do you do when you are introduced to a potential match and you don’t feel that instant connection? Or even after some time passes you’re still not “feeling it?” Well, before dismissing the match outright, consider the following facts about attraction from the book “The Science of Relationships: Answers to Your Questions about Dating, Marriage, and Family:”
1. People who were holding a warm cup of coffee rated people they were talking to as “warmer” and more likable, compared to those holding an ice coffee, who rated their counterparts less favorably. Holding a hot drink actually made people feel differently, with their brain unconsciously associating the warmth of the drink with the personality of the other person! (read more)
2. Individuals who travel in the same direction tend to be more attracted to one another than individuals who travel in opposite directions. So, for example, couples who commuted in the same direction (regardless of whether it was together or not) reported greater satisfaction in their marriages than couples who commuted to work going opposite directions.
3. You are more likely to be attracted to someone when you share an intense, exciting activity. For example, research participants who took a questionnaire while standing on a very high, narrow bridge rated the surveyor as more attractive compared to participants who took the same questionnaire on a low, wide bridge just up the river.
Another major factor that can influence chemistry is what psychologists call the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE); it’s the tendency to overestimate the effect of personality and underestimate the effect of the situation on someone else’s behavior, but not your own. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic you are likely to assume they are a bad driver or an asshole. But if you cut someone off in traffic,you don’t consider yourself a bad driver. Instead you think “I’m not familiar with this road and I had no idea this lane was suddenly going to become a right-turn only lane!”
What this means for relationships: when you meet someone new and they are awkward, or rude, or overly talkative, or some other behavior you don’t like, your first tendency is to assume that is his/her character: She is awkward, rude, talkative, etc… and you forget the role of circumstances in influencing their behavior. For example, she was awkward because she got too nervous trying to make a good impression; or she was rude because earlier in the day she had an argument with a friend; etc.
So, am I saying that if you want to feel chemistry with someone you should walk with them over a frighteningly high bridge, in the same direction, while holding a cup of hot coffee, while suppressing the FAE???
No, not exactly.
The message of these scientific studies is that attraction is influenced by many factors that you may not at first be aware of. It’s not just about who that person is, but the circumstances of your meeting, your mood that day, even where you are on your monthly cycle (ladies)…
BUT, the point is not to go crazy trying to micromanage the perfect scenario to meet someone! The point is to recognize the factors that contribute to attraction, and when you’re not feeling attracted to someone, examine why that might be the case. Is it because you don’t jive with her outlook on life, her humor, her personality…? Or is it because maybe you’ve only met her under stressful circumstances, you haven’t spent enough quality time together, or maybe you have preconceived notions about her that you haven’t examined? You need to be conscious about what doesn’t attract you, and examine the deeper causes. The same goes for thinking about why you are attracted to someone.
If it’s just because she’s hot, but you haven’t gotten to know her personality or spent extended time with her, then that attraction doesn’t have lasting value.
Environment and circumstances have a big impact on attraction. You can’t always trust first impressions
Take time to examine your own feelings and first impressions. Are you guilty of the FAE? What other preconceptions, stereotypes, or life experiences are making you feel attracted or not? Self-reflection is always a worthwhile endeavor.
Attraction can grow over time, especially given the right circumstances. You help build attraction (or reignite a dwindling flame!) by sharing exciting experiences, spending time together, or working together towards a common goal. Sitting down for a chat with a warm cup of coffee or tea wouldn’t be a bad idea either!