The Psychology Behind Sexual Attraction: How We Become Attracted

 / 

psychology behind sexual attraction

When it comes to the psychology behind sexual attraction, there are two key factors that affect how we become attracted to someone. We might not be aware of the influence of these factors, but subconsciously, they have a big impact on how attractive we find a potential mate.

In this post, I’ll be diving into those (plus a few bonus factors) to give you a better understanding of the psychology behind sexual attraction. (Also feel free to check out the post on most physically attractive zodiac sign female.)

The Psychology Behind Sexual Attraction: How We Become Attracted

Factor 1: Mood

We’re more often sexually attracted to someone when we ourselves are feeling good – or to people who make us feel good.

In sex researcher Justin Lehmiller’s book, The Psychology of Human Sexuality, he emphasizes the importance of our mood when it comes to attraction. He talks about a study made by Krosnick, Betz, Jussim & Lynn (1992), where they examined what happened when one positive and one negative stimulus was introduced to people before they met strangers.

“The study showed that those who’d been shown a picture of kittens tended to react more positively to the stranger, while those who’d been exposed to an image of snakes in a bucket, just before meeting the stranger, reacted more negatively to the unknown person.”

Lehmiller argued that you can view this as a case of classical conditioning, and I agree with him on this.

The fact that we’re more often sexually attracted to someone when we ourselves are feeling good – or to people who make us feel good, may not seem surprising in and of itself.

This is, however, interesting in relation to what “pick-up artists” usually preach.

Related: Owning Your Sexuality Unapologetically

Negging

A common pick-up method that was discussed a lot about 10 years ago is “negging”. In essence, it means you say something negative to someone to catch their attention. Like “how nice your sweater is, shame the trousers don’t match”, or “your friend’s really hot”. Pick-up artists claim this is a very successful way of picking someone up.

There are, however, several reasons why this isn’t a good strategy: 

  • For one, it’s not a very nice way of behaving, generally speaking. 
  • And also, according to science, it doesn’t work. 

There’s a greater chance the person you’re interacting with will become attracted to you if they’re feeling good – which isn’t that likely if you insult them. 

Factor 2: Similarity

Another interesting factor that determines how sexually attracted to someone we become, is similarity. Lehmiller means that this factor plays a role in the choice of partner – we more often choose a partner that’s about as physically attractive as we are. This is also a prominent factor when you consider our partners often have a similar intellectual capacity to our own. 

This obviously doesn’t mean everybody makes this kind of choice (just like with all research, this is more or less true for each individual) – but the pattern is there.

“An interesting aspect of similarity being important to attraction is that this, in itself, doesn’t guarantee happiness in our relationship or longevity, compared to couples where partners aren’t that similar.”

Lehmiller brings up dating sites as an example of this. He says that although the matching algorithms on popular matchmaking websites would have you believe that similarity equals happiness, this isn’t backed up by science. 

What seems important at the beginning of a relationship doesn’t remain over time. What is important over time for a relationship to last, is something I’ll be delving into in a future blog post, so stay tuned!

Related: 13 Science-Backed Reasons For Physical And Sexual Attraction

Other Factors That May Affect How We Become Sexually Attracted To Someone

1. Other People’s Description Of You

Another study the author points to – which I thought was very interesting – is a classic study from 1965, which looked at how attractive we perceived people to be, depending on how others had described them. 

Descriptions were divided into four categories: solely positive, solely negative, negative initially then positive, positive initially then negative.

“The study showed that what people liked the most and what leads to the most attraction, was that the person who described you had gone from disliking to liking you.”

This may prompt you to ask a few follow-up questions. That’s what happened to me, anyway. 

  • Could it be that the results indicate a human inclination for competitiveness? 
  • Or is it a question of a sense of achievement – When a person goes from disliking to liking you, we feel we’ve somehow deserved it, and we feel attraction?

2. Slip-ups

Another study in Lehmiller’s book looked at clumsiness and awkward mistakes and how they affect how sexually attracted to someone we feel. 

“The study showed that when people we view as successful and clever make minor mistakes – like spilling wine on their shirt – we find them more attractive.”

It’s thought that successful people (at least people who we perceive as successful) become more human to us when they make minor mistakes, and that’s what increases the power of attraction.

But, we feel less attracted to people we think of as mediocre when they slip up in a similar way. (Seems a bit unfair, doesn’t it?)

Related: Sapiosexual, Intelligence, And Attraction at work

On A Concluding Note:

Understanding the psychology behind sexual attraction isn’t always straightforward. How we become sexually attracted to someone isn’t always clear-cut. Sometimes it has to do with how successful we perceive a person to be, other times it has to do with winning people over, or the fact that we as individuals have similar personalities.

By learning more about what sparks attraction, you can more easily regain attraction that’s once been lost, by focusing on the things that drew you in before. 


Written By Leigh Noren
Originally published on Therapy by Leigh
Psychology Behind Sexual Attraction Pin
Sexual attraction
psychology behind sexual attraction pin

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Up Next

The Fascination Of Mismatched Partnerships: What Happens When We Date Out Of Our League

What Happens When We Date Out of Our League: Mismatched Partners

What happens when we date out of our league? Is dating out of our league an exception or a norm? Let’s find out more about what it means when we date out of our league and how important equality in romantic relationships are. 

Key Points:

Desiring superior potential partners, who are about 25 percent more desirable than how we see ourselves, is the norm.

Revising the importance of personal characteristics and reevaluating the disparity between partners helps reduce inequality between them.

Significant gaps between romantic partners are toxic, while small gaps can be



Up Next

What Is A Love And Hate Relationship? Understanding The Complexities Of Intense Emotions

What Is A Love And Hate Relationship? Navigating Complex Relationships

Are you stuck in a relationship with someone where you love and hate them at the same time? Feeling love and hate for the same person can unnecessarily complicate a relationship. But what is a love and hate relationship?

Let us explore what does a love hate relationship mean, why people have them, and how to navigate this complicated emotional terrain. 

What is a love and hate relationship?

Love and hate are two of the most powerful emotions that humans can experience. When these two intense feelings col



Up Next

The Way You Save Contacts Speaks Volumes About Your Love Life

The Way You Save Contacts Reveals Your Love Life: 6 Results

Curious minds, gather ’round! The way you save contacts in your phone holds the key to the secrets of your love life. Brace yourselves for a revealing journey through the world of your contact saving style!

From fancy pseudonyms to hilarious emojis, quirky nicknames, and the cryptic context in brackets, why on earth do we have these bonkers rules for saving numbers on our beloved phones? It’s like we’re all secret agents operating undercover in the world of contacts.

You see, some individuals prefer full names as contacts – simple, methodical, and oh-so-professional. But once you cross that threshold of friendship, oh boy, things get spicy! That’s when the magic begins and your phone t



Up Next

What Does It Mean To Be A Hopeless Romantic? 10 Signs You Might Be One

What Does It Mean To Be A Hopeless Romantic? 10 Major Signs

Ah, the hopeless romantic. We’ve all heard the term before, maybe even used it to describe ourselves or someone we know.

But what does it mean to be a hopeless romantic? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? And why do some people identify with this label while others don’t? Do you consider yourself to be a hopeless romantic person? If yes, then you’ve come to the right place.

What is hopeless romantic love? Being a hopeless romantic touches on the very essence of what it means to be human – our capacity for love, connection, and vulnerability. While some may see it as a naive or unrealistic trait, others vi



Up Next

Will A Man Change For A Woman He Loves?

Will A Man Change For A Woman He Loves? 15 Signs He Will

A question that has plagued romantics for centuries, inspiring countless love stories, heartbreaks, and chick flicks – will a man change for a woman he loves?

With opinions ranging from the optimistic to the cynical, is it really possible to transform Mr. Stubborn into Mr. Right? Can a man evolve from a lazy couch potato into a dedicated partner, simply because he loves his woman?

Love can be a powerful force that can transform even the most stubborn of hearts. Yet it remains a mystery to many, but one thing is certain: when it comes to matters of the heart, anything is possible.

From personal growth to a deeper connection, let’s dive into why love can motivate a man to become a better version of himself. 15 compelling reasons why a man will always be willing to change for the ri



Up Next

The Surprising Benefits Of Sleeping Apart For Stronger Relationships

Why Sleeping Apart Could Help More Couples Stay Together

In a world where bedtime habits vary, an increasing number of couples are sleeping apart from partners. For those seeking solace in their personal sleep space, the notion of sleeping separately from spouse has gained traction.

Whether driven by different sleep patterns or a need for individual comfort, couples that sleep apart are gradually reaping the benefits of it. 

Key Points

Sleeping apart is often, but not always, beneficial for a couple’s health and romantic experience.



Up Next

How Do I Know If He Likes Me? 10 Subtle Signs That Will Give Him Away

How Do I Know If He Likes Me? 10 Subtle Ways Reveal Secret

How do I know if he likes me? If you’re with a man who’s guarded or holding back his feelings, this question might bug you. 10 subtle signs will give him away!

The beginning of a relationship is the most thrilling part, isn’t it? The sexual tension brewing up between the two, the awkward silence, and the anticipation…; of the first kiss, the first time holding hands, and the confession of feelings!

The butterflies just can’t stop fluttering in your stomach. Oh, what a magical time indeed! But as much as we enjoy the anticipation and the journey toward the part where both partners profess their love for each other, sometimes it can be a bit nerve wreaking.

“Does he like me?” “Or he’s just being nice?” “Am I imagining these things or there’s a real connection be

AI Chatbot Avatar
⚠️ Liza is in training with WMHA and may not always provide the most accurate information.