Jessica met Michael online. She was enamored of his picture, and after several emails, they finally decided to meet at a trendy coffee shop in Jessica’s neighborhood. She was so excited, it’s all she talked about for three days prior.
Finally the day came. Michael walked through the glass door, and Jessica’s heart sank. He looked like his picture, but something seemed to change for Jessica. Unfortunately, all those butterflies she had been feeling for the previous three days seemed to just fly away.
When people meet on a first date, they are usually looking for that “buzz”—that feeling of “having chemistry.” But what causes that feeling? What causes your body to react? Several things, it turns out. Attraction is actually voted on by a committee. Each of your senses has the opportunity to cast a vote. Your eyes, nose, ears, and even your skin can help decide if this person does “it” for you or not.
1. The weightiest vote comes from the eyes—especially for men.
Men have 25 percent more neurons in their visual cortices. That’s why they tend to place more emphasis on visual cues. Both men and women are drawn to indications of sexual health such as shiny hair, clear skin, bright eyes, and a fit body.
Interestingly, research has also found that if we had positive childhood experiences, we’re more likely to be attracted to individuals who have similar characteristics to our opposite-sex parent. One study found that people were able successfully able to pick out a photo of a woman’s husband based on pictures of her father.
2. The nose also has a vote.
Women can sense major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. These are proteins emitted into the air that indicate a person’s immune system. Studies have found that women are more attracted to men with opposite immune systems (meaning, complementary antibodies). This makes biological sense; if a child were born from the union, that child would have a wider variety of immune cells and potentially a healthier immune system.
3. At the same time, both men and women sense pheromones.
Women are attracted to metabolites of testosterone—an indicator of a man’s strength and vitality. Men are attracted to copulins, a pheromone that a woman produces during ovulation, which means men are most attracted to women during peak fertility.
4. The ears are listening to the other’s voice.
A man tends to be most attracted to higher-pitched voices. A woman is most attracted to a deep voice. Research has found that the deeper a man’s voice is, the more likely a woman is to remember him. Maybe that’s why you just can’t seem to forget those Barry White songs.
5. Your environment has a major impact on attraction as well.
What you hold in your hand can influence how you feel about someone. One study found that when participants held a cup of hot coffee in their hands, they judged a person as warmer and more generous. When the same participants held an iced coffee instead, they judged the same person as colder and more stoic.
But it’s not just your hands that can vote; your butt can, too. Sitting on a warm, fluffy couch will make you warm up to a person faster than sitting on a cold, stiff plastic chair.
6. Finally, if all your senses are in agreement, one moment gets the final say—the first kiss.
This kiss is a mixture of smell, texture, and taste that has the ability to make or break a relationship. In a recent Gallup poll, the pollsters discovered that 59 percent of men and 66 percent of women had broken off a new relationship because of a bad first kiss. That’s the bad news. The good news is that if someone passes the first kiss test, chances are there will be more (really good) kisses in the future.
Jessica’s sensory committee might have vetoed Michael, but I suspect they’ll find someone to agree on soon.