As defined by the APA (American Psychological Association), "attraction is the interest in and liking of one individual by another, or the mutual interest and liking between two or more individuals. Interpersonal attraction may be based on shared experiences or characteristics, physical appearance, internal motivation (e.g., for affiliation), or some combination of these."
As a psych student, learning about the inside outs of one's brain can often be quite revealing and all too close for comfort. When the time came around in social psychology - the branch of psychology that deals with social interactions, including their origins and their effects on the individual - to learn about all things attraction, I knew I was in for a sweet mind-bending treat.
In this blog post, I want to share with you, dear reader, the whacky and wonderful things that I have learned about attraction and romantic relationships through my studies. We're going to have a zoomed up look at the phenomenons of opposites attracting, having 'chemistry' with someone, and love at first sight. To introduce all of these concepts, I present you with 'Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love' which showcases the different types of attraction. Side note, whenever I do Instagram Polls asking readers what they want to hear from me, almost everyone always wants to hear about sex and relationships. I feel that attraction is a topic where I am not completely exposing myself yet still catering to that general realm of interest. Who knows, stay tuned to possibly hear me exposing myself in the future...
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I thought I would start off by introducing this theory titled 'Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love.' Have a good look...
Robert Sternberg theorised this beautifully organised structure for love in 1986. I'm using this here to illustrate the different types of love and attraction. Whether love as a tangible concept that can legitimately be organised, I'm not sure, but for the sake of this blog post, let's imagine that it can be. Sternberg theorised that there were three facets of love (and attraction in this case); passion, intimacy, and commitment. These facets can exist on their own, with another one, and all together in a complete trifecta. As you can see, whatever combination of these you have result in a distinct type. I'm not gonna submit you into me reciting each of the types out - because you can obviously (I hope) see them above - but I'll mention a couple to aid your overall comprehension. It's interesting to me to notice that the combo of commitment and intimacy create companionate love that friends have. Then if you're committed to being passionate with someone without being intimate you have fatuous love. Add the intimacy part of the equation, and you've got consummate love or the whole package, rather. So the point of that, different types of attraction and love exist.
Let's talk about it; having chemistry with someone or that 'spark' that we all long for. Why is it even referred to as that? It's that inevitable feeling that you can't explain towards another being, it's just there and you don't know why. While the saying itself is metaphorical, it is very much literal in the sense of biochemistry. This 'spark' is the result of estrogens and androgens - the female and male sex hormones - at work. These hormones give you that fuzzy feeling that will light up your insides and draw you to that attractive individual. It is also entirely evolutionary when it comes down to that. Deeply embedded in its presence is the desire to reproduce which makes the sensation so strong. This feeling is comparable to ones that illicit substances produce. Your brain calls the shots with intense attraction. With the racing levels of the cortisol hormone (the stress hormone), adrenaline, and dopamine, there is no doubt that attraction and love are the choice of drug for many.
How about love at first sight? More like lust and attraction at first sight! Think about it, do you think that you have ever truly fallen in love with someone just by sole sight of them? Whatever you think your love at first sight experience has been, it is really just a strong physical attraction at first sight. I apologise for being the Grinch for whimsical and optimistic lovers, but you're reading for answers and explanations so here they are. There is no doubt that you can see someone and have an intense feeling of attraction to them which can lead to love. In a survey titled the '2017 Singles in America survey,' 34% of the participants said that they have fallen in love before. The sex difference here was 41% male and 29% female. That stat actually makes a whole lot of sense, because biologically speaking, males (side note, I am referring to the sex assigned at birth) depend on physical appearance a lot more to consider someone attractive. Females depend on factors like status and resources to consider someone attractive. As I've just told you that, there's no need now to do a blog post about sugar daddies and gold diggers! Basically, intense attraction can be regularly mistaken for love. Therefore, love at first sight is a myth.
The final bulls**t test is on opposites attracting. It is a well-used saying, however, there is a lack of evidence to verify its truth. Funnily enough, one of the proven leading principles to attraction is similarity. So, people tend to like others who are more similar to themselves. You can probably think of a couple where you're like, "what no, they're the exact opposite of one another, you're wrong!" And yes, I can think of many couples that share visible differences between each other too. Yet, they're actually more similar than you realise. Some differences definitely compliment one another, but fundamentally, for a long term relationship to stand the test of time, there is a necessity for similarity. Values, morals, and desires will most likely be mutual between a couple. Think about it in this sense, every notable difference in a relationship is another hurdle to get over. In regards to matters like having children, finances, and a relationship's status, being on the same page is almost compulsory for full relationship satisfaction. Every similarity that you share makes coexisting a million times easier. Maybe you don't need to be on the same page, but you need to at least be reading the same book.
That's settled then; attraction is an overwhelming sensation that we will all experience in our lives. It is a feeling that is undeniable and inevitable. Its origin is confusing and psychologists are still in the process of discovering what makes certain people attracted to certain others. Why do you think you're attracted to the people you're attracted to? I hope that I was able to adequately debunk some attraction myths for you. I would love to hear what you think if you don't agree with my conclusions. Debate me, please! But on a final note, go out there and get addicted to attraction!
Artwork by Chloe Bolingford
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This blog will encompass the life of a 21 year-old kiwi chica. Composed of stories, advice, life lessons, worldly observations and whatever else Ella's life brings to surface. For all of this and more, read my new found blog 'Born In 2000': established on the 28th of October, 2019. Where Ella Gibson explores her life that exceeds all limitations. Publications should be expected once a week. Be sure to take this present moment now and rock it!