“What are the basic elements of attraction? What makes two people fall in love?”

—Sandy, Los Angeles, California

Attraction happens all the time, and yet it is hard to understand. Why are you attracted to one person even though your friends are not? Why are some of us attracted to a wide range of people, while others are very particular? Attraction is equal parts science and mystery, so the answers aren’t clear. There are many elements to attractiveness, and we each prioritize them differently. But in general, we are attracted to people who make us feel good physically, socially, relationally, and/or emotionally.

Attraction in action

Depending on the situation, your attraction to someone—or their attraction to you—probably includes several elements. Depending on your preferences and experiences, some of these will be quite important while others will not:

  • Physical experience: How the body looks, sounds, smells, or feels
  • Internal chemistry: The interaction of any number of hormones
  • Social status: A person’s standing in society, including their clothes, career, and friends
  • Excitement/fun/stimulation: How much you enjoy someone’s company
  • Companionship/friendship: How much you value someone’s loyalty and support
  • Stability/security: How well a person can help provide for your needs and comfort
Lust? Love? BFF?

What we are looking for also affects the type of people we find attractive.
So what do you want?

  • Friendship
  • Romance
  • A fling
  • A soul mate
  • A life partner
  • Some peace and quiet at long last
Let’s be honest

If you want to be attractive to others, consider the old saying: “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

  • Be the best version of you. Authenticity is compelling—so long as you’re not authentically mean.
  • If you’re trying to be what someone else wants, and it doesn’t come naturally, what happens after you have their attention?
  • Being attractive is about finding someone you’re truly compatible with. So let the real you shine through.

Is that musk ox–scented deodorant really a good idea? Find answers from the Science of Attraction web series.