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Viren Swami does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Some time ago, I found myself single again shock, horror! But too often those opinions were based on anecdotes, assumptions about human behaviour I knew to be wrong, or — worse — pure misogyny. As a psychologist who has studied attraction, I felt certain that science could offer a better understanding of romantic attraction than all the self-help experts, pick-up artists and agony aunts in the world.
And so I began researching the science of how we form relationships. So what does this science of attraction tell us? Well, first, it turns out that one of the strongest predictors of whether any two people will form a relationship is sheer physical proximity. About a half of romantic relationships are formed between people who live relatively near each other and the greater the geographical distance between two people, the less likely they are to get together.
Of course, online dating and dating apps have changed where we meet our future partners. But even online, geography continues to have an influence. After all, the point of online dating is eventually to meet someone offline — and it costs more time and money to meet someone who lives further away. Second, appearance does matter. People perceived to be physically attractive get asked out on dates more often and receive more messages on online dating sites. They even have sex more often and, apparently, have more orgasms during sex.
But physical attractiveness matters most in the absence of social interaction. Once social interaction takes place, other traits come into their own. It turns out that both women and men value traits such as kindness , warmth, a good sense of humour, and understanding in a potential partner — in other words, we prefer people we perceive as nice. Being nice can even make a person seem more physically attractive. But of course, the social context matters as well.
Consuming alcohol , for example, really can make everyone else appear more physically attractive. And my own research has shown that love sometimes really is blind. People in romantic relationships, particularly new relationships, are biased in how they perceive their partners. Third, it seems that we like people who like us.
This idea of reciprocity may sound very simple, but it has incredibly important implications for all relationships. Chat-up lines may sound like a bit of fun, but all romantic relationships are built on reciprocal self-disclosure — the mutual exchange of intimate information with a partner. Deciding when and how to disclose intimate information to a new partner is an important part of every romantic relationship and can be the difference between an honest, healthy relationship or a closed, stunted one.
Also, playing hard-to-get almost never works. Giving the impression of dislike is unlikely to spark attraction because it goes against the grain of reciprocity. Finally, despite what many people think, opposites very rarely attract. In fact, decades of research has shown that attraction is most likely to be sparked when two people perceive themselves as being very similar to each other. But similar how? It could be similarity in terms of sociodemographics — most relationships are formed between people who are similar in terms of age, social class, occupational background, and so on.
But more important than sociodemographics is similarity of values — everything from musical tastes to political orientation. But when someone agrees with us, they validate our worldviews and as result we want continuing contact with that person. Knowing all this, is it possible to predict with any accuracy whether two people will form a stable relationship?
Probably not. One the difficulties with these sorts of predictions is that relationships are complex and often messy. For a start, relationships are stressful and stress can sometimes make us behave in strange ways. All of this makes it difficult to know in advance how relationships will turn out in advance. Viren Swami is speaking on Attraction explained: The science of how we form relationships, at the Cambridge Science Festival.
Plymouth Contemporary — Plymouth, Devon. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Syda Productions. Viren Swami , Anglia Ruskin University. Location, location So what does this science of attraction tell us?Law of attraction and internet dating
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The Law Of Attraction And Online Dating