How Do We Get Physically Attracted To The Opposite Sex?

We all have an ideal set of features and qualities we think we might like in the opposite sex. This is true among both men and women. But what are the most desirable physical traits that we look for? Many studies have pointed toward symmetry as being the best indicator of attractiveness, but is that the only basis for physical attraction that we have?

What Makes a Pretty Face?

There are many visual cues that facial symmetry can suggest. Most importantly, it suggests good genes, as it signals how healthy a person is and how well they have adapted to the stresses of environmental and genetic development. According to Independent.co.uk:

“In a recent survey, women with symmetrical faces were considered to have more feminine facial proportions and such feminine features are considered to be more attractive.”

What’s interesting is that even though symmetry plays a large part in how attractive we perceive a face to be, it’s not something we actively look for. It is simply an unconscious mechanism that influences our preferences in facial features. This is probably why we tend to be vague about what we find to be attractive. We just don’t necessarily know.

Voice Pitch

Another aspect that can affect our perception of a person’s attractiveness is their voice. According to Cristen Conger of HowStuffWorks.com:

“Repeated studies have confirmed that heterosexual women prefer deeper voices whispering sweet nothings in their ears. In addition to associating lower-pitched male voices with masculinity, women associate those bass notes with authority, larger body size and physical attractiveness”

Because a lower register has long been an indicator of attractiveness in men, some men will intentionally lower theirs when speaking to their special someone, or someone else whom they perceive to be attractive.

The opposite is true in women though as their attractiveness is enhanced by a higher pitched voice. According to Independent.co.uk:

“Men prefer women with higher pitched voices, even when artificially manipulated. A more recent report, however, indicates that men perceive raised pitch more attractive only if the women are demonstrating an interest in them. Breathiness when speaking is also considered to be a feminine characteristic. Women might therefore wish to consider cultivating a “Nicole Kidman” approach to speech.”

So while a higher pitched voice might be a great tool to use for initial attraction, the effects can wear off easily. That means that high sexy voice might start to grate on the senses once the woman no longer displays any interest or if the man is no longer attracted.

Body Shape

Just as we judge a landscape to be beautiful, the same process is followed when observing physical features to determine for ourselves if they are beautiful or not. The most important aspect of body shape that determines physical beauty is the Waist-to-Hip ratio. ScienceDaily.com says:

“According to this line of thinking, waist-to-hip ratios greater than the “ideal” (approximately.7) portend that a female will be perceived necessarily as less attractive.”

However WHR isn’t the only determining factor of physical attractiveness. Attractiveness is both complex and multidimensional. Even culture can play a factor as some will favor the hourglass figure while others are the complete opposite and will favor a tubular figure.

The Importance of Physical Attraction Between Sexes

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people prioritize physical attractiveness when dating. It is one of the most important factors whether two people will like each other during that first meeting and the formation of impressions. It has a lot to do with the cues that these physical features can symbolize. According to Suite101.com:

“Though it may sound stereotypical, research by evolutionary psychologist, David Buss (1994), shows men across cultures rate women as more attractive if they have a youthful look. Women tend to be attracted to men who appear healthy, especially if they are perceived as mature, affluent, and dominant. These preferences are rooted in evolution. For men, youthfulness would indicate fertility, while women are attracted to traits that would create a resourceful mate who would remain with her to protect and support their offspring (Gangestad and Simpson, 2000).”

However, women are more likely to still be swayed even after not finding a man to be attractive. Julie Ferman, a renowned matchmaker, conducted a survey among her male and female clients and asked the following question:

“Have you ever met someone whom you didn’t find attractive initially, but then later, over time, as you really got to know that person you found that you did develop ‘the hots’ for this person?”

The answers were quite surprising. Julie says:

“Well, women have responded yes to that question around 85 percent of the time. But the men I’ve interviewed? Sadly, less than 5 percent of them have said yes.”

Naturally, we can’t all be gifted with the most physically attractive features. This is why we use a lot of means to enhance them. Independent.co.uk says:

“…both men and women judge full facial make-up to be more attractive than wearing no facial makeup. Men prefer women with full eye make-up and foundation, but lipstick is not necessarily considered an enhancement to beauty. Men find a greater contrast between the darkness of the eyes and lips and the lightness of the surrounding skin to be most beautiful.”

Another means of enhancing our physical appeal is through good grooming. Women are more naturally inclined to groom and make themselves up. It’s a little different with men though who can’t seem to prioritize good grooming habits. Those who don’t yet have a grooming regimen might be surprised at just how much of an effect on their physical appeal a clean face and the smell of after shave and a good perfume can have.

Finally, it is important to make sensible fashion choices. Again, this is an area where women excel. However, the increase in metrosexuality among men has reached a point where most men at least have a basic understanding of what is fashionable.

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