The attraction effect

The psychology of love attraction fascinates people for millenniums. Ancient authors were trying to figure out why we are choosing a mate and what is the base for such choices, concluding that romantic love could be the result of using some magic potions.

The Greeks were wrong and right at the same time. Facts about female attraction show us that the magic feelings we experience when we are in love are indeed a mix of chemicals that drive infatuation, so the version about some “potion” is not without a merit. But these proteins are made by our own bodies. In the absence of magic as the basis of choices we make in love, what are the reasons that determine why we choose this mate and not another?

Facts about psychology of attraction

The psychologists from the University of Basel recently confirmed in a study that our choices are influenced by other options that we didn’t choose. What we haven’t chosen, apparently, influences what we eventually pick.

In other words, you are choosing this girl and not another because of other girls you have rejected. If there was a different line up, you would, most likely, pick a different girl. Because what you didn’t pick determines your level of satisfaction with your choice. (More about it in a minute.) And the reason for that lies in the so called attraction effect.

It actually makes perfect sense. Men coming to Russian dating sites and starting to date beautiful, loving and caring Slavic women change their criteria very quickly.

The guy probably would be happy to be with any of these women if he met them in his home town, but once he is on a dating site featuring girls from Ukraine or Russia, he gets really picky. His aspirations swell ten times and he now only wants the very best he can get—forgetting in the process that he is going to live with his beloved in his home town, so he needs her to remain happy about her choice as well. And while he is a great option for his sweetheart now, because she can only compare him to her countrymen comrades, who may be a bit old-fashioned when it comes to love and dating, once all guys around her are basically equally caring and well-mannered, her satisfactions levels in her choice may drop.

The attraction effect.

The psychology of attraction: Why are you choosing this girl and not someone else?

Research results

  • Not only that, online daters tend to pick people who don’t even match their wish list, another research by Australian behavioural scientists found. “Stating a preference for what you are looking for appears to have little to no bearing on the characteristics of people you actually contact,” researcher from QUT Stephen Whyte noted.
  • Another research by Texas group discovered that the level of relationship satisfaction was determined by how favourably the partner compared to other potential mates. The relationship satisfaction, in its turn, determines how likely one is to keep the mate. This affects female attraction as well as the choice and satisfaction in males.

The attraction effect

Sebastian Gluth, Jared M. Hotaling and Jorg Rieskamp, psychologists from the University of Basel, conducted two experiments. The first targeted decisions-making processes and the second included measuring of a brain activity and satisfaction, depending on other available choices.

The classic belief holds that individuals always choose the most beneficial option irrespective of what other variants could provide. But this thesis is not supported by what psychologists call “the attraction effect”.

For instance, if we were to choose a camera, the selection between a model that is inexpensive but average in performance as compared to an excellent and costly option is greatly influenced if a third alternative is added to the list of available choices. If people were torn between two conflicting options, then the selection becomes much easier if one of the variants from the original task appears far superior to alternative #3.

Psychologists say it’s easy to influence which camera the majority of participants would pick by simply varying option #3.

In the experiment respondents had pick a preferred alternative in a variety of tasks. For instance, they were asked which option would they select if they were to receive some money and asked to pick between smaller amounts but getting them sooner as compared to larger sums later. The third option was obviously inferior as compared to the two initial variants, but what happened, changing the irrelevant alternative influenced which one of the major alternatives the respondent would rather pick.

Having an option highlighting the benefits of the primary preference was enough to make it appear more attractive. This is what researchers call the attraction effect in action.

In the second experiment scholars started to measure the brain’s activity while a respondent was randomly assigned a certain option, without being able to actually make a choice himself. The attraction effect was obvious here as well. The subjects who reported higher satisfaction had demonstrated a higher activity in the brain’s reward centre.

Passion, love, attraction.

Are you really choosing this woman because she is your ideal match or influenced by ‘The Attraction Effect’?

Fusion of sciences

The authors state that their research unites findings from psychology, economics and neuroscience.

The results are easy to use in marketing, and some real estate agents have been known to do it for decades, when they take prospective buyers to homes they want them to purchase.

  • If the choice is between an expensive and well-liked home that buyers cannot afford and a cheaper option that doesn’t tick all the boxes, it may help to show them a house that is also not perfect but expensive.
  • But if people have enough money to afford the home of their dreams, showcasing a house that is imperfect but also expensive may seal the deal.

The attraction effect and romantic love

While we’d love to think that choosing a mate is different to how we shop for a new car, practice shows we use the same brain circuits when weighing options in any choice we make.

But what is also true, in the presence of too many options the brain loses the ability to compare and make a decision.

This is why it’s always better to quickly limit your selection of potential matches on a dating site, which enables you to make better decisions.

Removing from your list people who are definitely not suitable allows to un-cloud your judgment and remove the psychological bias known as “the attraction effect”.

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