10 Ways Our Biology Influences Attraction

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We all know that love isn't always simple. But what we don't know is that many scientific ideas are playing into attraction, many of which we are unaware of. "We are in love with the idea of a romantic love, and that ideal leads us astray and into a lot of problems," says Andrew Trees, Ph.D., author of Decoding Love. Learning a little about the science of attraction just may help you play the dating game.

Flower power

Even if a woman's self-conscious about her body, wearing a spicy floral fragrance can make her seem to be 12 pounds thinner to men, according to a study by the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. "The smell profile of the spicy floral fragrance influenced how heavy [men] thought the women were," says Trees.

Fertility tips

A study by evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller revealed that the amount of tips lap dancers receive is directly tied to their fertility cycle. Compared to a menstruating lap dancer, who made on average $35 an hour, women who were ovulating made $70 per hour. Researchers speculate that men may respond to subtle changes in body odor, lip color, pupil dilation, and skin tone that can occur due to hormone changes during ovulation. What does this mean for non-lap dancers? If you want to meet a man: "Men are programmed to seek out women who are more fertile," says Trees. "Always make sure to schedule dates around ovulation if you can."

The smell test

"Smell is a way to determine genetic compatibility," says Trees. Because modern society emphasizes good hygiene, bodily smells that were once used to detect genetic compatibility are masked. What's worse, "birth control appears to reverse a woman's usual smell preferences," says Trees. "When a woman is on the Pill, she tends to choose men who smell similar to her father or brother." Women who take birth control may be more apt to choose someone with a similar genetic profile, even though a man with a different genetic profile would be better for her offspring, he says.

The height of it

Short men are at a disadvantage when it comes to the dating game. "Height is valued in the marketplace, and tall men do make more on average," says Trees, which doesn't bode well for a shorter man's dating possibilities. According to a study of more than 20,000 online daters by Gunter Hitsch and Ali Hortacsu of the University of Chicago and Dan Ariely of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a man who is five feet tall would need to make $325,000 more than a six-foot-tall man to be as successful in the online dating market. A 5'4" man would need to make $229,000 more while an average-sized man of 5'6" would need to take in $183,000 more.

Fear factor

The next time you plan a date, you may want to do something a bit more adventurous than dinner and a movie. A study performed by social psychologist Arthur Aron found that adrenaline can enhance feelings of attraction. Trees describe Aron's study in his book: An attractive woman waited for men to cross Vancouver's Capilano Canyon Suspension Bridge, which was constructed with wood boards and cables that tilt and sway in the wind. Once a man crossed the precarious bridge, the woman would walk up to him, explain she was conducting a study about attractive scenery and give him her name and number. Compared to results from a control group that operated nearby on a safer bridge, men who crossed the Capilano were eight times more likely to call the woman.

Symmetry rules

If your left side mirrors your right side, you have a better chance of scoring a date, says Trees. "If you take a face and compare it to a composite face, the composite is always judged as more attractive," he says. The reason? The more faces you use to make one composite face, the more symmetrical it becomes. "As you become more symmetrical, the attractiveness ratings go up," he says. A report in the journal Animal Behavior found that women are more likely to achieve orgasm when their partners are symmetrical. A possible explanation is that symmetry acts as an indicator of good genetic health, and the more diseases and illnesses someone has, the less symmetrical they tend to be.

The best medicine

Laughter is not only the best medicine, it can also help you score a date. "People use humor as a proxy for intelligence and creativity," says Trees. According to a study by the AARP, personality, and sense of humor are rated higher than physical appearance when it comes to choosing a date. However, it seems that what men and women mean when they say they're looking for "someone with a sense of humor" differs. Women are more apt to want someone who makes them laugh while men want someone who will laugh at their jokes, according to research from the International Society for Humor Studies. Researchers posit that a woman uses humor as an indicator of intelligence and creativity while a man uses his wit for seduction. "That's not always the case," says Trees. "But there's something aggressive in humor, and men can get intimidated when women are too funny or sharp-tongued."

Love and drugs

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Love can make people do strange things, but it can do even stranger things to your brain. Lucy Brown, a professor in the department of neurology and neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, found that people's brains were flooded with dopamine -- a neurotransmitter that affects pleasure and motivation -- when they were shown photographs of their lovers. As a result, love seems to trigger the same kind of euphoric effects achieved by certain drugs, including cocaine.

Music is the food of love

Sure, music is said to soothe the soul. But did you know rock music can help boost your level of attractiveness? A study by North Adams State College in Massachusetts found that women judging photographs of men found them to be more physically attractive when they were listening to rock music as opposed to when they were listening to jazz or no music at all. "[Rock music] doesn't strike me as romantic," says Trees. "But that's just one more of the strange foibles of the science of attraction."

Rapunzel, Rapunzel

According to a study by the Evolutionary Psychology Research Group, men rated the physical appearance of long-haired women higher than short-haired women, regardless of their facial attractiveness. Men described women with long hair as determined, intelligent, independent, and healthy individuals. But short-haired ladies, don't start growing out your tresses yet. Men also characterized women with short hair as honest, caring, emotional, and feminine.

Written by Ashley Neglia for AOL Health