7 Factors That Create Instant Attraction To Some People — But Not Others

Are sparks flying with a new romantic interest? Here's why.

Last updated on May 26, 2023

flirting couple baranq / Shutterstock

Have you ever wondered what makes you attracted to someone?

Attraction can often feel elusive or mysterious, but there are some simple factors that explain what makes one person "click" for you over someone else.

You know the feeling that suddenly hits you. You’re traipsing about town and notice someone who gives you a jolt.

Or, it could be your partner coming out of the shower, smelling irresistible. Or, all of a sudden, your best friend feels ... sexy?


What you feel is instant attraction. How'd that happen?

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The role of sexual desire in attraction

The reason for this is that desire for sex is so fundamental to many of us. It’s also because it’s one of the most frequent reasons people seek out sex therapists.


A related concept is attraction. What’s so exciting about attraction is that it often seems mysterious and difficult to define. You know when you experience it, but you don’t always know why you experience it.

Research says it takes less than one second from meeting a person to decide how much you like that person, and whether you’re attracted or not. It sounds like a very short time — and it is — but the important thing here is realizing that it’s about the initial feeling you experience.

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The strength of attraction changes with time

For some people, attraction appears after years of friendship. All of a sudden, your colleague or close friend may seem incredibly attractive.


At other times, it may go the other way, and the attraction to your partner, for instance, vanishes into thin air, only to reappear — just as unexpectedly — a couple of months later with a vengeance.

Many people have a physical "type" that determines initial attraction.

When it comes to that instant attraction that you can identify with, you usually ascribe that to things you’re aware of, such as the way a person looks. It’s not unusual for you to have a ”type,” and that’s what determines that first jolt of attraction.

But there are in fact many other factors involved at the same time, which may actually affect attraction more than just looks.


A person who has written quite a lot about attraction is sex researcher Justin Lehmiller. In his book, "The Psychology of Human Sexuality," Lehmiller compiled research on attraction and how it works.

Lehmiller lists the following factors as some of the more essential ones for you to feel attracted to someone.

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Here are seven factors that may create an instant attraction to some people — but not others:

1. Closeness

It’s more likely that you feel attracted to someone who’s closer to you geographically, such as someone who lives in your area or a person at work.


2. Similarity

It’s more likely that you get attracted to someone who’s more similar to you than not. Being similar does not, however, predict the longevity of the relationship or how happy you are together.

3. Physical excitement

When you meet someone you don’t know and are physically aroused (for example, have a higher heart rate as a result of an adrenaline rush), it increases the chances you’ll feel an instant attraction.

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4. Mood

You like people who make you feel good. You like other people more when you feel good — even if it wasn’t the other person who made you feel good.


5. Shortage

When there are fewer potential partners to choose from, you tend to view the potential ones present as more attractive. When potential partners appear more difficult to catch, you become more attracted to them.

6. Looks

People of all gender identities are more attracted to people they find good-looking. But the attraction you feel may depend on whether others experience that person as attractive, and the context you’re in (that is, if there are other attractive or less-attractive people in the same room).

A person’s looks tend to be more important at the beginning of a relationship, compared to later on in a romantic relationship.

7. Hormones and neurotransmitters

Attraction is also partly determined by your sense of smell and what is referred to as pheromones. Higher levels of oxytocin and dopamine may also increase the level of attraction.


So, as you can see, there are many factors affecting whether you feel attracted to someone or not. Learn how attraction works for you.

What are important factors for you to feel attracted to someone?

For example, you share the same values and think they’re good-looking.

Has what makes you attracted to someone changed over time? If so, in what way? How does it feel when you think about what attracts you to someone?


If you need help identifying a feeling, answer these questions:

  • Where in your body do you experience the feeling?
  • How does the feeling feel?
  • What does it make you want to do?

Have you noticed anything else that tends to make you feel attracted, which isn’t listed above in the various factors? If so, what is it?

Why you feel an instant attraction to some people and not others is affected by lots of different things. Have fun determining what your "type" is and finding the people you're attracted to.

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Leigh Norén is a sex therapist and coach with a Master of Science in Sexology. She helps people reduce stress, shame, and anxiety surrounding sex so they can get their sex drive back and enjoy their partner again.