What Makes Us Fall In Love?
We all have a template for the ideal partner buried somewhere in our subconscious. It is this love map that decides which person in that crowded room catches our eye. But how is this template formed?
Many researchers have speculated that we tend to go for potential members of the opposite sex who remind us of our parents. Some have even found that we tend to be attracted to those who remind us of ourselves. In fact, cognitive psychologist David Perrett, at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, did an experiment in which he morphed a digitized photo of the subject's own face into a face of the opposite sex. Then, he had the subject select from a series of photos which one he or she found most attractive. According to Perrett, his subjects always preferred the morphed version of their own face (and they didn't recognize it as their own).
Of course, there are plenty of other theories regarding why certain people are attracted to certain types of appearance and the implications "attractiveness" has on initial interest and romance. There are evolutionary explanations based on assumptions around reproductive capabilities, predilections for proportional features, and of course, personal preference. Several studies examining the role of attraction in online dating have found that not only are attractive individuals more likely to be contacted than unattractive individuals but that attractive individuals were more selective in who they chose to contact (maybe those takeaways are no-brainers for anyone who's ever swiped right or left on a dating app).
Like appearance, we tend to form preferences for those who remind us of our parents (or others close to us through childhood) because of their personality, sense of humor, likes and dislikes, etc. One study found that perceptions of physical attractiveness are influenced by positive personality traits, like honesty and helpfulness, and people who exhibit negative traits, like unfairness and rudeness, appear to be less physically attractive to observers.
The debated topic of human pheromones still carries some weight in the field of love research. The word "pheromone" comes from the Greek words pherein and hormone, meaning "excitement carrier."
In the animal world, pheromones are individual scent "prints" found in urine or sweat that dictate sexual behavior and attract the opposite sex. They help animals identify each other and choose a mate with an immune system different enough from their own to ensure healthy offspring. They have a special organ in their noses called the vomeronasal organ (VNO) that detects this odorless chemical.
The existence of human pheromones was discovered in 1986 by scientists at the Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and its counterpart in France. They found these chemicals in human sweat. A human VNO has also been found in some, but not all, people. Even if the VNO isn't present in all of us — and may not be working in those who do have it — there is still evidence that smell is an important aspect of love (note the booming perfume industry). An experiment was conducted where a group of females smelled the unwashed tee shirts of a group of sweaty males, and each had to select the one to whom she was most "attracted." Just like in the animal world, the majority of the females chose a shirt from the male whose immune system was the most different from their own.