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The Science of Attraction


What really attracts us to one another? Is there something wired into us that predetermines what we look for in a partner? These are all questions we asked as we looked into the science of attraction, a special report. Through a series of experiments we found out about color and how it plays a role in attraction, we learned that facial symmetry is one of the first things we notice about a person, and though we may think we're good at reading body language, our test proved otherwise.

Clothing Color and Attraction

What if you could attract someone simply by wearing the right color? Experts say what you wear has a big impact on who you meet, even increasing or decreasing your chances of attracting a perfect mate.

We all know that how we dress, our personal style, says a lot about our personality, but come to find out the specific colors you choose could have much more of an impact than you might think.

We spoke with several experts on the topic who make a living styling men and women for a variety of events to make them the most attractive to their audience. They told us the colors you choose each day play a huge role in that initial stage of attraction.

We looked at a series of outfits that had been put together by Doncaster professional, Amy Turlington. Two women, Renee and Amanda, were our models. The test was as they appeared on the screen in different outfits, to think about how the colors make you feel and how you perceive the women wearing them. First, the color red.

"Red represents love, it represents power, it can represent so many things," Turlington said. "It's very approachable. It's also very powerful statement and I think that every man is going to look at the lady who walks in a room in a red dress."

Nicole Grant, a Licensed Professional Councilor, whose job is to help people with relationships, said studies prove red should be worn on a date, or out in a crowd, to attract a partner.

"Yes, there is research that says men find red on women more attractive," Grant said. "I do know that color plays an influence on how we see things."

Next we looked at the color black.

"Black can be mysterious, black can be sexy," Turlington explained. "It can feel very safe on the person that's wearing it, but yet very powerful to the person who's approaching you."

Black usually makes us see a person as powerful that's why it's a good color for job interviews, and though it can be sexy, studies found it can also be intimidating.

"I do think color plays an important part in attracting us," Grant said.

We then looked at the models in blue and green.

"Blue is part of our natural landscape. It's inspiring, it's beautiful, it's approachable, it's energetic," Turlington described.

That's exactly right. According to research, blue and green invite us and welcome us to go up and talk to a person more so than other, bolder, colors.

"It's more of a ‘hey I'm here, versus a neutral color that kind of just blends in," Grant explained.

Then we decided if we're really looking to attract someone, simply by catching their eye with color, it was time to call in an expert.

Chaz Foley is a stylist to the stars and knows how to make a person look good.

"We're in a society where people judge you by the way you're dressed, unfortunately, in so many different areas of our lives," he said. "To know what colors look good on you to feel good about it, it's going to help you with your success and your goals on a day to day basis, you know, the laws of attraction!"

The laws of attraction, see, it's science. Foley said we really are wired to see a color and react.

"Color, which is so important because it can make you look vibrant, look healthier, and even feel sexier, so color is very important," he said.

That's why when he is styling a celebrity or just your average perosn, it's the colors that compliment, but, still, there's more to it than that.

"But, what's beautiful is when a woman is wearing any color and she owns it. That man is going to feel it. He's going to be connected and drawn to her and that's going to make him say it was love at first site!"

That initial response, the first moment of attraction, a firing in the brain that just takes a little color and confidence to ignite.

Facial Symmetry and Attraction

If you don't believe in love at first site this next story might change your mind. The next test we did involved facial symmetry and how it plays a role in attracting us to each other.

When it comes to looking for the perfect partner do we really have as much of a say in who we're attracted to as we think? Or is our brain already wired and, therefore, pre-determined to like one person's looks over the other? Is personality more important? Or as some scientists suggest, do we rely on a human instinct to find symmetry to help us survive as a species?

"When we're talking about first impressions, when you glance at somebody, whether it's a prospective partner or not, if you think ‘well that person is really attractive,' it's not usually their personality or their charisma, it's usually just the structure of their face," Dr. Laura O'Halloran, a plastic surgeon, said.

She tells us humans are actually pretty shallow, but for a good reason.

"We're attracted to people with a symmetric face because when we're looking for mating partners," she explained. "That imparts some sort of idea that their DNA is better than someone who has asymmetries and deformities."

The idea is that it is all about survival. The best DNA gives you the best chances for healthy offspring.

"The fetus actually develops in a very symmetrical way , but there's all kinds of factors that can influence the symmetry of the face, part of it can be genetic, part of it can be environmental," she said.

Next we looked at the results of a test we performed. We took two people, J.C. Schmidt and Jessica Schaffer, and took their headshots. After editing their face and flipping it so it was perfectly symmetrical we headed out to ask which picture people found more attractive. We told them the two female and two male were twins. We called the male fake twin Ethan and the female fake twin Sarah.

Six females found the fake twin, Ethan, more attractive, while just one found the real, J.C., more attractive. For the guys, five found the fake twin, Sarah, more attractive, while two found the real, Jessica, more attractive.

Most sited things like the difference in eye shape, more even noses, and a more perfect face shape. One person even said the reason they liked one over the other was the symmetry.

"I think that facial symmetry is important like when you're first meeting a person, but that's not the basis for a true, healthy relationship," Nicole Grant, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist said.

At first glance, all signs seem to indicate that without that attraction driven by the subconscious and instinctive desire for symmetry, a couple might not ever get to the most important part, which even scientists agree, is one's personality.

Body Language and Attraction

Have you ever looked around at two people eating dinner and wondered if they were on a date or just friends? You might look for little clues in their body language that suggest they are a couple or not.

Well, there might be something to that sense you get just by watching two people interact.

Let's play a dating game. We began by introducing three couples. Two of them were fake and one was a real married couple.

"If somebody doesn't trust and they have trust issues they're always somewhat on edge," Susan Park, a therapist, explained. "They can be the nicest person in the whole world, but they probably can't express it because they're on edge and that shows in their body language."

Parks studies body language and couples, but does it take an expert to distinguish a real couple from a fake one, or can we pick up on cues just as well? So, simply by watching those couples interact could we really tell who is acting?

Each couple sat down to tell us how they met. Two couples made up stories, while the other was true.

Then we took the footage to the streets to see just how perceptive people really are. We showed them all three couples. Nobody we talked to could hear any of the couple's conversation; it was all about the body language.

Couple number one, a fake couple, received one vote. The were not touching as they sat at the table and the woman didn't speak.

"Because A, she didn't say a word, she just kept shaking her head. I don't know what he was talking about, but had they been a real couple she would have interjected something. And her hands are like this on her side of the table and his hands are down here," Parks explained.

In our online poll 10.1 percent of people thought couple one was the real couple.

Next, couple two, received two votes in the beginning, but after viewing the final couple, votes were changed, and they received none. Couple number two sat smiling at one another and laughing. They had their hands held.

"He's got his arm wrapped around her arm and her hand and she's moving her hand and he's moving his hand, so they're used to intimacy. And she looks at him with recognition," Susan explained.

In our online poll the second couple received 54.3 percent of the votes, making them the winning couple. Again, in the video, this couple received no final votes.

Finally, couple number three, sat with fingers clasped, but not hands held. The woman did not say much, but the two laughed and seemed more comfortable than couple number one. Five of those we spoke to chose this as the married couple, while the one stuck with the first. The expert we spoke with had a different idea.

"They're not married because he's holding her fingers like this. He's not holding her hand. And, again, she's just nodding," she said. "They just don't look married."

In our online poll the third couple received 35.5 percent of the votes.

Our expert tells us couple number two must be the married couple. She even said if she saw couples one or three in her office she would be very concerned.

So, who is the real couple? The expert was right. Couple number two had been married for nearly 28 years. The others had all just met the day we shot the video. So, though we think we can see and feel our way into someone else's world, it seems our perception is drastically off. Our judgment, something we use perhaps, too often, is broken like our speech when it comes to body language.

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