How Science Explains the Secret of Attraction

March 21, 2019
It could be said that the secret of attraction lies in our cerebral circuitry. It determines whether emotional signals are effective or not.

So, what is the secret of attraction? People have debated for centuries about what characteristics make a person attractive. Attraction varies depending on context, cultural values, and lifestyle. However, some continue to believe that physical features offer the greatest advantage.

It’s true that physical features do play a role in attraction. However, studies have shown they’re not the only factors that determine how attractive someone seems.

In fact, some people affirm that the attractiveness of another person is directly linked to their personality and the qualities the admirer sees in them.

On top of this, scientific research shows that a very important component of attraction lies in the brain and its ability to understand the emotions and intentions of others.

Researchers from the University of Lübeck (Germany) recently conducted a study that was published in the journal PNAS. This study found that the more capable we are of deciphering others’ emotions, the more attractive we are to others.

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The True Secret of Attraction Lies in the Brain

Brain neuron synapsis secret of attraction

By analyzing the neuronal mechanisms that are stimulated by attraction, researchers determined that a person’s ability to “read” others’ emotions played a big role in attraction.

Silke Anders, professor of social and effective neuroscience at the University of Lübeck and author of the study said:

“Being able to understand the intentions and emotions of another person is essential for successful social interaction. For mutual success, people need to understand and continually analyze their partners’ intentions and emotions. Additionally, they need to anticipate others’ behavior and adapt their own accordingly.”

The Study and the Secret of Attraction

To reach this conclusion, the experiment examined 90 people. Then, these participants watched videos of women expressing either fear or sadness.

After watching the videos, participants had to make an assessment of what emotions the women were feeling. Additionally, they had to report how sure they were about their guesses.

While the individuals were performing the requested activity, researchers analyzed their brain activity to measure how attracted they were feeling.

The more accurate the assessment of the woman’s emotional state, the more attracted the participant felt.

This could mean that the easier it is for you to read a person’s emotions correctly, the more attracted you are to them. This is because it activates the brain’s reward center, causing pleasurable sensations.


What’s truly interesting about these findings is the role that both the sender and receiver play.

The ability to understand others and identify exactly what they’re feeling depends on the level of neuron activity that occurs with attraction.

When a person shows facial expressions of fear or sadness, the observer correctly processes it in their brain. As a result, this triggers the reward system, increasing their attraction towards the emoter.

Two people brain waves secret of attraction

In prior studies, researchers found that people who lacked the ability to “read” the emotions of others had different neural circuitry. These people also tend to encounter difficulties with communication and attraction.

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For this reason, some scientists suggest that a lack of communication doesn’t necessarily imply a lack of interest. Simply, their neuronal circuitry isn’t sufficient to fully understand.

Is this an Explanation for Attraction?

Nevertheless, Anders acknowledges that the study is too small to make any absolute claims.

However, he affirms his desire to further analyze how the ability to read emotions changes as we age and if it’s possible to increase that ability with practice.

It would also be interesting to discover if the ability to read others arises from qualities we’re born with or if there are other factors involved making it possible.

In any case, these conclusions offer a new explanation for what causes attraction and why some people feel more attraction than others.

  • VV.AA. (2016).A neural link between affective understanding and interpersonal attraction.