• Question: Why are some people attracted to different people?

    Asked by Anonymous to Stewart, Miriam, Marton, Laura, Kathryn, David on 13 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: David Ho

      David Ho answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      I’m not an expert in this, but I think that, like with all things involving the mind, it’s a complicated thing that isn’t very well understood, even by scientists. There are many different factors that make someone find another person attractive or unattractive. Some of them are to do with the experiences we’ve had in the past — the people we’ve interacted with from childhood up have an effect on how we view other people in the present. There could also be genetic factors — things in our DNA that make us more likely to be attracted to certain types of people. Different people are attracted to different things and that’s perfectly fine — there’s no universal definition of “attractive” or “unattractive”. Which I think is a pretty good thing, because it makes the world a lot more interesting!

    • Photo: Stewart Martin-Haugh

      Stewart Martin-Haugh answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      Let me say that it would be a really boring world if we all liked the same things and the same people. Actually, it’s hard to imagine what that would be like, but I think it would make a fun short story.

      Let me also say that I’m not a biologist or geneticist.

      A lot of questions in psychology are difficult to answer because you can’t control your experimental conditions in the same way. Identical twins are useful for this: they have the same genes so the only differences in the way they behave should be down to their lived experience.

      This is a study of some twins and how attractive they find different faces:
      https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(15)01019-2
      There are differences between the identical twins, suggesting some of it is down to lived experience.

    • Photo: Miriam Hogg

      Miriam Hogg answered on 15 Nov 2018:


      There are some universal things that all humans are attracted to. Facial symmetry, clean skin, proportions of the body for example. Historically they have been used to indicate health and are therefore thought of it as attractive and people would want a healthy mate.

      There are also some cultural and social standards of beauty that changes between countries and groups of people so that gives different people different standards of attractiveness. Some is just personal preference, some people prefer the look of a certain colour eyes or hair, or body shape. I think we’ve evolved to be attractive to different people so that our genes have more differences in them which makes us more likely to survive.

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