Falling in love is explained in mystical and almost epic terms. The crush, falling struck, being under someone’s spell. But really it all comes down to impaired neurotransmitter traffic in our brain. When people talk about feeling “chemistry” with someone, they are putting their finger on it.
Broken Hearts, Broken Brains: The Neurology of Heartbreak
Sexual attraction is mediated by the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. The initial feeling of euphoria is controlled by norepinephrine, which stimulates the production of adrenaline and causes the heart to race and the palms to sweat, and dopamine, the chemical that motivates us and gives us a feeling of reward. Finally, the most lasting attraction is due to oxytocin, which gives us feelings of trust, security and closeness to other people.
But none of this explains why there are people who cause us other sensations while others leave us cold. What makes someone make us lose our minds? Are we attracted to a certain type of person? Surprise: more chemistry. These are the factors that make us fall in love:
The smell of each person is unique, and although it seems minor, it largely determines the attraction we feel. Like hormones, pheromones are chemicals that our bodies release through our sweat and other bodily fluids. If you are an insect, a shrew or a lizard, pheromones are irresistible and rule over the organism. However, in humans it is not so clear, since, although the smell influences, there are also many other factors.
How much does the smell influence? In one study, participants were asked to rate the smell of various t-shirts volunteer men wore day and night. In general, women preferred the scents of men who had disease-resistant gene profiles, and which complemented their own. This is called histocompatibility, and it is a mechanism for producing strong, healthy babies that are resistant to disease. Furthermore, it is assumed that pheromones are a mechanism that prevents inbreeding and that they are behind a lower attraction for members of our family.
Although our nose leads us to look for certain genetic profiles, that does not prevent us from being attracted to people who resemble us, both physically and psychologically. Although there were previous theories that suggested that we look for people who complement us (opposites attract), there are practically no studies that justify it. On the contrary, data from a study with more than 45,000 people around the world indicate that our partners and our friends tend to be similar in age, educational level, race, religion, attitudes and general intelligence. The study found that the personalities of happy couples coincided 86% of the time.
However, this is not the whole story. and people who are too alike may not last long together. The reason is ours impetus towards personal growthor in other words, avoiding boredom, which makes us instinctively look for someone who challenges us just enough to grow and evolve together with that person.
It is undeniable that we are attracted to beauty, but how is beauty defined? It seems that evolution also has a lot to do here. For example, having a symmetrical face is generally considered an attractive feature. Although beauty of a face changes a lot in different cultures, studies have found that symmetry is related to the perception of an absence of mutations genetics and other diseases.
The perceived beauty of the body is another determining factor. Again, preferences are strongly influenced by culture, but scientists have found that, in general, men find people who have a ratio of hips to waist measurements close to 0.7, that is, the shape of an hourglass. In the case of men, women also look for this relationship between the width of the shoulders and the waist. However, new studies indicate that body mass index, the ratio of height to weight, best predicts attraction. In the case of women, the study determined that the most attractive BMI was around 20, a slim body type, but significantly larger than the bodies of the models seen in the media and social networks.
The life experience
Our experiences, learnings and, above all, traumas, also determine which people we find attractive. This happens at a very primal level: it has been proven that we are attracted to familiar faces. This sometimes includes our own face, so in other cases we may be attracted to people who look like us.
We are also more attracted to people with interests, abilities, and personalities that are familiar to us. And what happens if we don’t know the person? No problem, our brain tends to attribute a certain personality to someone just by their appearance and body language.
The combination of the above factors, and many others, is the recipe for attraction. This explains why a person can be attractive on social networks and have thousands of followers. However, it is easy for us to end up arguing endlessly with our friends if they are more or less attractive. In short, there is nothing written about tastes.
Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes