Don't Think Your Date Is Attractive? Research Says Look Again

49% of people fall in love with people they didn't initially find attractive. Dr. Helen Fisher shows us where to draw the line.

two profiles facing each other Hanna Zasimova, inkdrop, Sandra Dans from capturenow via Canva

As researchers, we now know what happens in the brain when you first meet someone new:

Two small factories that lie behind your forehead leap into action. One brain region tries to decide if this person is physically attractive enough to be an acceptable partner in your bed. The second brain region tries to establish whether this individual is likable— not likable in a general way, but likable to you.


But, if this neural circuitry initially evolved millions of years ago as an effective way to size up a potential partner ... It’s not necessarily useful in our modern world. 

So, what should modern daters and potential romantic partners do when they fail to feel an initial spark?

RELATED: The Most Important Trait For Attraction —​ And How It Leads To Love


How our anthropological history influences attraction today 

Our ancestral forebearers traveled the plains of Africa in small, extended family bands and regularly met familiar friends and relatives. Today, however, these vast community networks are disappearing.

Most of the potential partners we meet are unfamiliar, even strange. So in our modern clime, these primitive brain circuits are likely to shout “NO WAY,” long before you can realistically appraise a potential mate.  

To make the process of mate selection even trickier, when you first meet someone new, you have very little data about him or her. So one tends to overweigh these few nuggets of information. His somewhat-crooked teeth might be far less important to you if you also knew he was a brilliant professor, a billionaire, a famous musician, or had other qualities you wanted in a mate.

First impressions aren’t complete, and your primitive brain circuits are likely to respond negatively to this paltry set of initial facts, casting out what could have been a soul mate.   




How to subvert this ancient messaging 

In the classic movie, The African Queen, Katherine Hepburn says to Humphrey Boggart, “Nature, Mr. Alnutt, is something we were put on this earth to rise above.”  

Not everything we lug around in our brain is useful in today’s social atmosphere.

Unless these brain regions instantly tell you this individual has absolutely no sex appeal for you, and his/her personality is equally unappealing, try to rise above your heritage. Data show that the more you interact with someone, the more you regard him or her as good-looking, interesting, smart, and similar to yourself. The better you like them, too. 


Indeed, in our annual survey of Singles in America, we found that some 49% of men and women eventually fell in love with someone they didn’t initially find attractive.  

Quiet those little voices in your head–and take a second look.   

RELATED: Phrases That Trigger Emotional Attraction In A Man


Helen Fisher Ph.D., is a biological anthropologist and Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute and Chief Scientific Advisor to the dating site Match. She is the author of the book The Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray, among other titles.