The Reason Scientists Are Confused About Attraction

If you’ve ever been confused on why some scientists and researchers say “birds of a feather flock together” while others believe “opposites attract,” you’re not alone. Throughout this site, I’ve promoted the concept that we attract what we are, but this doesn’t explain why some adventure sports junkies who throw triple black flips are married to unadventurous bookworms, or why a detailed-driven CEO of a Fortune 500 company is madly in love with a lofty jewelry-maker.

Why do we fall in love with one person rather than another?

At the heart of it, no one really knows. We what do know is love appears simple like 1+1=2.  You like someone, they like you back. Boom! You’re dating.

But if you start to explore why we are attracted to each other, what makes love last, and so on, it’s like trying to write the proof for 1+1=2. That proof, by the way,  took Bertrand Russell 372 pages of complex sums. 1

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Psychologists have determined that men and women tend to fall in love with individuals from the same ethnic and socioeconomic background; with those of a similar level of intelligence, education and physical attractiveness; with individuals holding similar religious, political, and social values; and with those who have a similar sense of humor. 2

 Not to mention a bunch of other complex things must happen simultaneously, such as timing, our ability to notice cues, and location. Hell, even our childhood experiences of fourth grade kisses and “you show me yours, I’ll show you mine” play a huge role in our romantic choices.

But how two individual personalities mesh and make love last is completely unknown. We do tend to fall in love with someone who can meet our needs, and we tend to love those who love us, but we do not necessarily date or marry someone with similar or opposite personality traits.

Over 470 studies have examined the chemistry of two personalities in a marriage and the issue still remains an unanswered ticket – like all the winning Lotto tickets you purchased.

The person you choose to fall in love with or marry may be exposed to your most intimate self; maybe that’s pooping on the toilet while reading ESPN. They’ll join you at family gatherings, and they’ll shape how you will raise your children. They’ll affect whether you stick with your career. Not to mention, unless you’re a mysoginist that produces super sperm that impregnates  all of the 247 women you’ve slept with, then the opportunities you have to throw your DNA into the next generation are limited.

So it matters who you fall in love with and choose to shoot your baby tadpoles in. When we tend to list the traits we like in a person, we tend to describe certain personality traits. I love adventurous women, you love compassionate women. Who we choose to be with is determined by our personality.

Our personality is the biological and psychological cocktail that makes each of us unique. I don’t know two people who are identical, do you?

The moment we are conceived, we inherit genetic factors that cause differences in our basic temperament. Are we fussy, calm and quiet, or a wild child?  Your temperament goes hand in hand with all of your life experiences to create who you are.

In addition to our attachment type which stems from our experiences within the relationship with our parents, our temperament, according to  love researcher Dr. Helen Fisher, expresses unique personality traits that lead us to being attracted to one person rather than another. While we are roundhouse kicking our mother’s stomach before we are born, various chemicals are mixing together that are activating specific genes, which influences the shape of our brain and temperament.

While a lot of these chemicals keep our heart beating and our lungs breathing, various chemical systems influence our personality as well. Of these chemicals, Helen Fisher found four that became “increasingly apparent with shaping one’s personality.” 3

Pick a statement that best describes you:

A) “I am spontaneous and love experiencing new things.”

B) “My family and friends say I have traditional values.”

C) “I tend to be more analytical and logical than most people.”

D) “I imagine amazing and horrible things happening to me.”

If you selected A, you might be the type of person that seeks new experiences. You enjoy taking risks, you’re curious, and you’re creative. If this sounds like you, then you have higher levels of dopamine in your system. Helen Fisher calls this type the Explorer. Ironically, this type is also attracted to other Explorers.

If you selected B, you might be the type of person who tends to be calm, and loyal. You follow the rules, stick to traditions and  you’re fairly social. Serotonin is the driver that causes you to follow social norms. You tend to build quality social groups and love doing things the “right” way.

If you selected C, you might be the type of person that hates fuss or abstract thinking. In fact, you like things to be direct, decisive and logical. Many men and women born with high levels of testosterone tend to be highly competitive and bold.

If you selected D, you like to use your imagination to see the big picture. You are able to connect disparate facts to think contextually. Not to mention, you’re very empathetic, nurturing and emotionally expressive. The driver of these traits are estrogen.

Some of you may be thinking, well, some of the other statements describe me too. You would be right. According to Helen Fisher, we have our primary personality type, but depending on the environment, we may resort to our secondary personality type.

Having multiple types allows us to adapt to the environments and people we may interact with. This is where ‘opposites attract’ come into play. Individuals high in testosterone tend to be attracted to those high in estrogen because their temperaments are complementary, while the dopamine wild child and social butterflies are attracted to birds with their same feathers.

Despite these biological influences directing us to who we like, what matters is our conscious decisions on how we express these temperaments. Some people high in Dopamine climb mountains, fly around the world or sail the open seas, while others collect trains and are addicted to reading.

Some people who are high in Serotonin manage events; others become accountants or priests. People high in testosterone may work around the clock to cure cancer, develop artificial intelligence, or tinker with their Honda Civic engine. Some people high in Estrogen build movements, lead countries to peace, while others teach soccer to little kids.

This is why the dopamine skier who is throwing triple backflips falls in love with a novelty seeking reader or why a detailed-driven CEO will fall in love with an emotionally expressive jewelry maker who donates 10% of her profits to building a school in Rwanda.

Having one temperament is neither good nor bad. 4

For instance, my main temperament, according to Helen Fishers personality test, is based on high levels of estrogen.

I tend to get lost in my imagination (both good and bad) and have a tendency to be dramatic compared to the women I date. That’s because I tend to be attracted to women with more narrow hips who are high in testosterone and logical. They complement my spacey, philosophical thinking. My secondary personality type is high in dopamine, which explains why I love traveling, bungee jumping and why I drive cars four times the speed limit (not recommended).

In fundamental ways, we are who we are. Despite how much we learn about the influences of what causes us to be attracted, we are naturally drawn to some people far more than others. I wish I could tell you go here and you will met the woman of your dreams, but we both know that won’t happen.

The benefit of understanding your personality types is you can place yourself in environments with people who display similar personality traits or complementary personality traits. This will increase the probability of you finding someone you will truly love.

The test Helen Fisher offers in the book is available on Chemisty.com here.

  1.  If you don’t want to do anything for the next few weeks, check it out here. No, I did not read it, nor will I.
  2. Book: Why Him? Why Her? How to Find and Keep Lasting Love by Helen Fisher
  3. See footnote 2.
  4.  Despite most temperaments being stable, life-altering events or traumas can turn specific genes on or off. This can create lasting changes to one’s personality and the type of people they attract.

Kyle Benson

Kyle is a healthy relationship coach fascinated with the science of love & relationships. He loves helping couples revitalize relationships in the bedroom and out. Salsa dancer. Traveler. Power lifter. Learn more here.
The Reason Scientists Are Confused About Attraction
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