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What determines who we’re attracted to (and why dating apps don’t make sense)

Posted on February 14, 2021

Romantic attraction – whether it’s a mild crush or a seemingly love-at-first-sight situation – is decided by a collection of factors. All these individual traits and features work together to create feelings of lust, longing, affection, ardor – in other words: attraction. 

The thing about us humans, though, is just like our fellow mammal species and other animals, our perception of and reaction to another person is dependent upon the use of all of our senses. And though this may change in the next 50 years, technology does not yet give us a way to smell, taste, and feel the person we might be messaging. So when you’re looking to gauge the potential chemistry between yourself and a potential date, fielding profile matches and swiping for hours is a huge waste of time. Instead, be present. Live in the moment and listen to what your body tells you. Because attraction is – or at least starts out as – a set of biological reactions that can’t happen until the person is standing in front of you.

There’s no arguing with science (or, at least, there shouldn’t be). Humans are animals just like any other species, and we were built to interact in person. So stop staring at your screen and swiping your thumb, and start listening to, looking at, and smelling the people in front of you. Don’t pass up another real-life moment that could potentially lead to something even more real for you and someone special. Make your move.

How Our Bodies Tell Us Who We’re Attracted To

How do we decide who we’re attracted to? Our bodies decide for us. During face-to-face interaction with fellow human beings, our bodies are busy firing off electrical signals, releasing hormones and other chemicals, and perceiving outside sensory information. All these processes together give us the warm and fuzzy feeling of chemistry – or, they don’t. When you’re meeting potential dates online for the first time instead of in person, you’re robbed of the natural process your body goes through to field potential matches and tell you who you’re most attracted to. Instead, you’re running in place, losing hours of your life investing in messaging people you aren’t even sure you’ll like.


One way we figure out if we’re attracted to someone is through scent. This goes beyond an indication of basic personal hygiene and self-respect. No one likes a person who has unmanageable body order or is heavily perfumed. Beyond that, your sense of smell may subconsciously give you an indication of how compatible you are with another person. 

While you can’t consciously detect them, your nose can pick up on pheromones that are transmitted into the air and are linked to certain traits, which can cause you to be attracted to certain people. For example, we may be able to sense a person’s levels of MHC, or major histocompatibility molecules, which indicate their immune system. We tend to be attracted to people with immune systems that contradict our own. Other pheromones like adrostenone, androstenol, and androstadienone also influence sexual attraction.

Come on over, baby.

Another thing that determines our affectionate feelings for another is social psychology principle of proximity and exposure. In psychology, there is something known as the mere exposure effect. It refers to the finding that people tend to start liking or preferring something more as they are repeatedly exposed to it. In other words, just spending time in the physical presence of someone can lead to attraction. 

Plus, physical contact releases hormones that make us feel good. Spending time near each other, hugging, and intimacy release serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and oxytocin in our bodies. So it makes sense that getting to spend time with someone in person over time will give you a much better sense of how attracted to them you are.

An apple a day.

Health is another indicator of how much you’ll like someone, including overall health and health behaviors. For someone who values a healthy lifestyle, observing how a person takes care of their own body can be an indicator of how compatible you might be. But health habits like diet have an evolutionary influence on attraction. It’s more beneficial to the species that the healthiest members reproduce, to create more healthy, long-living humans. 

When someone is healthy and takes care of themselves, it is obvious to us (though we may not realize it) in everything from the glow of their skin and the sheen of their hair, to their posture and the way they behave.

Eye for an eye.

Eye contact does a lot for a potential relationship with someone. Just a mere 0.2 seconds of in-person eye contact can deliver huge spikes of dopamine and serotonin to the brain. That’s where the idea of “love at first sight” comes from, and it does actually hold some weight. Catching the eye of someone across the room is worth exploring (hence, CardDate®).

Extended eye contact can give you headway in finding love, too. We’ve all been told it’s not polite to stare, and that’s true. It’s also not polite to look a person over like they are a piece of meat. Instead, if you want to figure out if you share a mutual attraction with someone, share a moment of prolonged mutual eye contact. Sharing a period of mutual gaze has been shown to result in mutual attraction. Couples were even more attracted to each other when they had the opportunity to also engage in physical contact.

Music to your ears.

Hearing someone’s voice in person also signals to our brain how attracted to them we are. When we are attracted to the sound of someone’s voice, we actually tend to see them as more physically attractive and are more inclined to want to get to know and spend time with them. There are studies that show that women prefer deeper voices, which may be because, in nature, low sounds indicate larger animals. In general, a strong voice that comes from the diaphragm is more attractive overall, while a nasal or weak voice is much less desirable.

Make your move now

Give your thumbs and your heart a break from the dating apps that turn your love life into an algorithm. Live real life, make real eye contact, feel real butterflies in your stomach. Do all that–but don’t let your next potential crush pass you up. When you sign up for CardDate®, you suddenly have a casual way to connect with people and a safe way to explore the chemistry you have. Sign up today or learn more before you get started.