By: Joshua Sikrisamouth

As college students, we are exposed to a brand new environment and in addition to these new surroundings, we also find ourselves around new people. Now that we are at a new chapter of our lives we find ourselves making choices that are foreign to us and amongst these choices and challenges include developing relationships from scratch. These include both‍ casual and platonic relationships. In order to uncover what it is that that attracts us to others, this wiki will explore the psychological and biological aspects of attraction and sexuality.
Background Information:
Attraction is the driving force that leads intimate relationships. It is what draws one person to another and, if taken to higher levels, leads to long and meaningful relationships. Attraction can be seen in a multitude of living organisms however this wiki focuses on the concepts of attraction from the human perspective.

Table of Contents

I. Biological Aspects

  • Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection

  • Biological Factors on Attraction

II. Psychological and Social Aspects

  • Preferences

  • Social Interaction

  • Nonphysical Traits

III. Sexual Orientation and Attraction

IV. Activity for Understanding

V. My Reasoning

VI. Conclusion

VII. Sources

I. Biological Aspects

Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection

Scientist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was a profound researcher that made various contributions to the world of science. Darwin theorized the concepts of evolution and natural selection during his expeditions to the Galapagos Islands in which he observed several variations of finches. Natural selection is the basic biological need to preserve a species through the passing of genetic traits in mating ("Charles Darwin"). Darwin and scientist Alfred Wallace deduced from Thomas Malthus's idea of population pressure that all species are at risk and thus, are in unconscious competition to preserve genes. By having a variety of genes due to mating, the gene pool will become more diverse and thus more likely to survive natural disasters such as floods or droughts. In order to combat the possible threats that may arise in the future, living organisms are to select mates that have potential advantageous traits that could be passed on to future generations. Natural selection is what drives the biological side of attraction and the need to find a mate. In order to preserve human kind, individuals are drawn to other individuals who have are the best candidates for their offspring to reach their full genetic potential ("Natural Selection").

As highlighted by Lawrence S. Sugiyama, many of the aspects of life in the ancestors of many species were governed by the factor of attraction. This includes where to inhabit, what to eat, and who to affiliate with. Each of the decisions made in these subjects signaled specific cues of how they are perceived and thus increasing or decreasing mate value. However, for humans, there is a sense of culture that dictates what we perceive as attractive (Sugiyama). Because of this, humans are not attracted to things solely based on biological needs and factors. Despite that, biological aspects of an individual have a significant influence on the matters of choosing a mate.

Biological Factors on Attraction

A great deal of attraction comes from biological factors that influence an individuals physical characteristics. Typically what is sought after in a male is an athletic build, a tall stature, and overall masculine qualities. For women it is a specific ratio of bust to waist to hips, smooth skin, and a specific torso shape.The reason for these can be viewed from a biological standpoint in which those who have a healthier appearance are better for mating in order to pass advantageous genes to offspring.

An important factor that weighs in on the perception of one's physique is the waist-to-hip ratio as it is regarded as a good measurement of how much fat there is distributed within the upper and lower parts of the body and how much of that fat is excessive. In addition to this, a study conducted by J. Fan et. al. revealed that an important indicator of attraction in males is the volume height index. The experiment conducted consisted of a survey of 69 Chinese men and 25 Caucasian with several of their measurements taken. These men were scanned and a 3-D wire frame was created. Several men and women were brought in and asked to rate the figures based on attractiveness. From the results taken, it was shown that about 73% of the data that rated highly attractive males highlighted the importance of height (Fan et. al., 2005) . Other proportions in comparison only counted minimally for subjects' overall level of attractiveness.

Attraction towards a mate also includes the use of body odor as a type olfactory communication between people. It was discovered there are pheromones within the various scents of the human body such as male androstenes and female copulines. In addition to this, it has also been shown that the more appealing one's own natural scent is, the healthier the immune system they have. In order to seek a mate that will be able to pass down such an important gene, individuals will unconsciously be drawn to those with this scent. In an experiment conducted by Anja Rikowski and Karl Grammer, 16 males were made to wear a t-shirt for 3 consecutive nights in order for the shirts to obtain their natural scent. These shirts were then presented to female testers who were to rate the shirts in order of scent appeal. The same process was done but with 19 female subjects with their shirts given to male testers. In addition to having their body odor rated, these subjects were also measured on their body and facial symmetry in order to obtain data necessary for a comparison (Rikowski & Grammer, 1999). The results from the ratings show that, for women, there was a high positive correlation between the "sexiness" of their body odor to the level of attractiveness of their face. This however, did not apply when it came to the proportions of their body. There were negative correlations when it came to their body asymmetry but the relationship was not significant enough.

The male subjects had more of an interesting result as there was little to no correlation between body odor and physical attractiveness of the men. However, when the subjects were presented to women during their optimal time of fertilization, the results showed that there was a positive correlation between body odor and facial symmetry. In addition to this, there was also a positive correlation between body odor and the symmetry of the subject's body (Rikowski & Grammer, 1999). This concludes that, due to hormonal influence, women are attracted to men who have a "sexy" body odor coupled with a symmetrical face and body.


Aside from the entire body, the face is a very large focal point that characterizes attractiveness. This is largely due to the fact that the face is an important aspect in social interaction.Attractiveness of facial features is categorized into three different aspects:
1.) Symmetry of the face
2.) Averageness and
3.) Hormonal Markers (Fink & Penton-Voak, 2002)
The presence of symmetry within one's face is hypothesized to reflect one's overall health. The aligned features in one's face showcase their wellbeing as one that is healthy and resilient to illnesses (DeBruine & Jones, 2006). An experiment conducted L. Mealey, R. Bridgstock, and C. G. Townsend, supports the idea that a more symmetrical face is often more desired. The experiment involved a survey in which people were to compare the faces of monozygotic twins that were identical genetically but differed throughout their development (Bridgstock et al.1999). The consensuses from the results show that the twin with more symmetrical features was rated as more attractive. Thus, supporting the fact that people generally attracted to those who have multiple aligned features.
Humans have developed an attraction towards those with average features. Though this is contrary to the belief that attractive features denote desired genes, studies have shown that an attraction to average faces stem from the fact that averageness equates to heterozygosity, the diversity of alleles within their chromosomes
(Fink & Penton-Voak, 2002). The fact that the person with average features has a variation of genes is what attracts others. By mating with a partner with a variety of alleles, will better the chances of future offspring having a diverse genome.
Hormonal Features
It has been shown that various facial features are also attributed to levels of the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. Males with higher levels of testosterone will have lateral growth of the cheekbones, mandible, and chin. Testosterone also aids in the broadening of the brow as well as the elongation of lower facial bones.

In regards with females, their features develop in correlation to their age and their reproductive condition. The quality of their skin relates to their estrogen levels and their general attractiveness. Skin that is free of lesions and blemishes as well as being smooth and hair-free is often found attractive as it signals a high ratio of estrogen to testosterone.

It often up to debate what women find attractive in males as there are mixed opinions on what is more preferred. Whereas some women prefer a more masculine face, there are those who prefer more feminine qualities in their male. This has been suggested to be due the personality traits that are often associated with said features. Males with more masculine qualities are perceived as more cold and dominating while the more feminine qualities are often perceived as warm and nurturing
(Fink & Penton-Voak, 2002).

II. Psychological and Social Aspects

A great factor that plays into attraction includes the aspects os sexual maturation. This often occurs during adolescence stage of life around the time of puberty, the development of sexual traits, and its occurrence varies from person-to-person. According to Cornwell et. al, there are several variables that weigh in on the development of an individual which includes:
  • psychosocial factors
  • hormones
  • genetics
It is also speculated that preferences are determined by social interactions. This is influenced by the positive and negative outcomes from several different interactions (Cornwell et. al., 2006).

A key area of observation includes the Life-history theory in which the specific aspects of an individuals life such as stress, nutrition, and the absence of a father as well as genetic influences in order to determine their personal preferences. Discrepancies in an individual's environmental factors could disrupt the growth process. Examples include a lack of nutrition in their diet, negative physical or social situations that could disrupt sexual maturation, and the absence of a father which weigh in on a female's development (Cornwell et. al., 2006). When these aspects of development are altered, the process of sexual maturation could either increase or decrease in speed which affects the individual well into adulthood and thus, their preferences in a mate could also change.

There are several ties to how a woman's sexual development influences their preferences in a potential partner. A highly studied area include the age at which they first experience menstruation, also known as menarche. Stressful familial situations, such as the absence of a father, accelerate the time of menarche. Even an absence of more than one year will have a large impact on the prevalence rate of an early menarche. A trend that is commonly associated with an early age of menarche and puberty is the increased number of sexual partners, earlier chance of sexual interest, and earlier first sexual experience. This rush of intimate interactions will affect the individual in question's outlook on relationships and thus have an influence on their mate preferences (Cornwell et. al., 2006). This event also showcases the affects parents have on one's development. Whereas the absence of a father will increase the speed of development in a female, a positive and healthy relationship with one's parents will decrease the likelihood of early sexual interactions. The relationship one has with their parents has a multitude of effects such as the development of one's self-esteem and psychological health.

Social Interactions
During the stage of adolescence, there is a wide opportunity for individuals to interact with each other and develop their own identity. Because this is a crucial time for their sexual development, it is imperative to take into account that it is also a very critical point for them to develop socially. According to R.E. Cornwell et. al., there is evidence that suggest that early puberty has both positive and negative effects for an individual. Those that experience puberty early will have an advantage in obtaining social popularity that may translate into popularity in adulthood. For men, early puberty can lead to popularity in which they are respected by their less-mature male peers, In addition to that, they are also more likely to appear appealing to women and as a result may engage in intimate relationships early on in life. The same holds true for females who mature early on. With the early onset of puberty and sexual characteristics, they will appear more appealing to their male peers. They are also more likely to gain the interest of more mature males and as a result, they will develop preferences for more mature men. Because of the heightened appeal to their peers, these individuals may develop a high sense of self-worth and thus, developing into confident adults. It has been shown that these individuals seek those around them who they find of equal status (Cornwell et. al., 2006). This connects back to the biological perspective of natural selection. In this case, the preferred results of genetic traits is the early development of sexual traits as it equates to a higher chance of popularity and the increase in potential mates. As a result of this popularity they will gain a high self-esteem and seek out others who share these traits in order to pass them down to their children so that they also fare well in their own time of development.

Nonphysical Traits
It is evident that there is more that weighs in on one's preferences for a mate other than what is present at face-value. There exists both the social and psychological that have influence on one's interests. Multiple studies were preformed by Kevin M. Kniffin and David Solan Wilson in which they determined how nonphysical cues relate to the level of attractiveness. The three studies were as follows: Having the testers rate yearbook photos, Having the testers rate physical attractiveness in a task-oriented group, and finally having the testers rate physical attractiveness

Within the first test, the testers were to rate photographs of their classmates from high school based on familiarity, likeness, respect, and physical attractiveness. Following that, strangers of the same gender and age of the first group of testers were to do the same. The results of this experiment showed a positive correlation between the nonphysical aspects (familiarity, likeness, and respect) and physical attractiveness. As one increased, so did the other. In few cases this trend did not exist however it was very minor. These ratings slightly varied from the strangers ratings as they actually knew some of these individuals, suggesting that these is an influence driving their opinions on their attract to these subjects other than their appearance alone.

The second and third experiments focused on small task groups and the interactions within them. The point of these experiments were to observe how the testers perceived their group mates based on their contributions to the group task. The results showed that a group member that did not pull their own weight was perceived as being very unattractive whereas a group member that made major contributions to the group effort was perceived as being highly attractive. The third experiment followed a similar pattern however this group was to rate each other at the beginning, before any interaction and based on physical attractiveness. After the activity, they were to rate again after interaction. The results of this experiment were consistent with the previous two showing that social interaction and perception plays a large role in finding someone attractive (Kniffin & Wilson, 2004). The findings from these results showcase that there is significance in the use of personal relations when it comes to finding others attractive. There is more than aesthetics that play in attractiveness and this component is familiarity.

III. Sexual Orientation and Attraction

In the framework of attraction, it is important to take the topic of various sexual orientations into account. It is common to think from the heterosexual perspective when it comes to determining desirable features. Yet sexual orientation weighs in on determining what is found to be attractive.

In order to understand what is attractive for homosexual individuals, it is important to first understand what it is that makes their interests differ than their heterosexual counterparts.There exists observable evidence that birth and heredity plays a role in determining sexual orientation. As observed by Pillard and Bailey, that birth order sometime plays a role in determining if a boy is homosexual. The tendency exists that if a boy has an older brother, than it is more likely that he is homosexual as it is speculated that having an older brother stimulates homosexual attraction. In addition to this there is also speculation of more biological reasons such as the mother's placental cells invading the uterine endometrium and their protein fragments may remain in the body for several years thus, having a developmental influence on the child (Pillard & Bailey, 1998). Also observed by Pillard and Bailey are the occurrences of homosexuality within twins.

The two types of twins include monozygotic, the twins deriving from one fertilized egg and dizygotic in which there were two separate eggs that were fertilized. In their study, several twins were studied.

The results showed that out of all 56 pairs of male monozygotic twins studied, 52% consisted of a twin that was of a nonheterosexual orientation. When it came to the 54 male dizygotic twins 22% consisted of a twin that was of a nonheterosexual orientation. For women, 48% of the monozygotic twins observed were of a sexual orientation other than heterosexual and of the dizygotic twins, the number was reported as 16%. These observation show the prevalence rates in which nonheterosexuality arises (Pillard & Bailey, 1998). Thus the norms of attraction are shifting because of these increasing numbers. Most of the standards when it comes to identifying attractive features now are not limited to simply identifying them in the opposite gender.

The brain is large area of focus when it comes to finding the origins of sexual orientation. There are several dimorphic differences within the brain of homosexual individuals. Within the brain lies the anterior commissure and its midsagittal region is the area that determines gender and sexual orientation. The region is larger within in heterosexual women than heterosexual men and within homosexual men, this area is even larger than that of a woman. In addition to this, structurally, the nuclei of the brain that are in the regions that play a role in reproductive physiology and behavior varies in size. For homosexual men, the suprachiasmatic nucleus is larger than those found in heterosexual men and women and the interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus is smaller than heterosexual men and women (Allen & Gorsaki, 1992).

A study performed by Laura S. Allen and Roger A. Gorski took place in order to test these findings. Several brains were obtained from three different hospitals and various physiological aspects were measured. The measurements confirmed that the anterior commissure was significantly larger than its heterosexual counterparts with an area of 14.20 mm squared whereas the heterosexual men had an average of 10.61 mm squared and the avervable evidence that birth and heredity plays a role in determining sexual orientation (Allen & Gorsaki, 1992).

It has been determined that, when it comes to pre-scaling (determining attractiveness), that it a large factor when rating men but not with women. It has been shown that there is a significant difference between heterosexual men and homosexual men when they rate the attractiveness of the faces of several men. In a study preformed by James M. Donovan, Elizabeth Hill, and William R. Jankowaik, several photographed faces of men were presented in front of judges and then given a a quantity to determine the level of physical attractiveness. In this experiment, both females and males were participants and both male and female photographs were presented. The results revealed that when it came to women, the scores were very consistent across the board thus, showing that no matter the sexual orientation, women are still perceived at the same level of attractiveness. However when it came to men, the results varied. Homosexual men saw the pictures of men to highly attractive whereas heterosexual men did not (Donova et. al., 1989). The results of this experiment show aces the fact that sexual orientation plays a significant role in determining the physical attractiveness of individuals, especially in men.

IV. Activity for Understanding

For better understanding of the topic of the biological aspects of attraction, the following activity can be preformed:
  1. Have about 10 anonymous subjects (5 male, 5 female) take a mugshot of themselves while wearing a body suit that only displays their faces.
  2. Following that, the leader of this experiment will take these photos and create lines on top of the faces where there is symmetry in the subject's face and count the number of symmetrical features.
  3. List the faces in numerical order of their amount of symmetrical features.
  4. The panel of testers will be given copies of the mugshots without the lines and rate them in order of attractiveness.
  5. Compare the results with the list of mugshots that have been drawn on.
From these results, it will be shown how people are more drawn to the faces that have more symmetric features. If done correctly, there should be a generally positive correlation between the the ratings given by the testers and the number of symmetrical features on these faces. This will support the idea that symmetry in one's appearance is a feature of what found attractive.

V. My Reasoning

The driving force behind this research topic stems from the fact I was curious about such an ambiguous subject. One cannot easily observe affection or love so I was curious to know the scientific reasoning behind these concepts. I wanted to know what others have found and researched and how all these pieces fit together so that I may have a nice full picture about what exactly draws one individual to another. Relationships and interaction are very important aspects of life as they affect multiple parts of our lives. Because of this, I wanted to find information about them in order clarify how they work. As a college student, I find that it is important that one knows the mechanics of interaction and forming relationships as these new bonds you make with the people around you have a higher chance of staying with you than in previous years. College is a time for maturation and when you exit out of college is when you must be able to interact with people on a new level. In order to be able to do so effectively, I believe it is important to understand the mechanics and inner workings of how these interactions are carried out.

VI. Conclusion

From the information gathered, it can be concluded that there are a multitude of factors that weigh on what people perceive as attractive. From pure biological aspects that relate to the idea of natural selection and the passing of genes to the more psychological and social aspects in which interaction is necessary, there are many layers in explaining the concept of attraction. In addition to this, it is important to take sexual orientation into account as it evident that what may attract a heterosexual individual to someone in comparison to a homosexual individual may be vastly different and cannot be explained by biology or psychology alone. It is important that, in the future, that the subject be looked at from all angles so not to mistaken the concept as a very straightforward subject. The significance that lies within this subject is that one cannot label such an aspect of human nature simply with one explanation. As college students, we are exposed to a new part of our life where we are to form new relationships. Such a new challenge of our life is confusing and complex but by gaining more knowledge of the subject of how attraction and other human interests originate from, we will not have to be left in the dark about what we are going through, physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally.

VII. Sources

Allen, L. S., & Gorski, R. A. (1992, August 1). Sexual Orientation and the Size of the Anterior Commissure in the Human Brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 89(15), 7199-7202. Retrieved November 27, 2013, from JSTOR.

Bailey, M. J., & Pillard, R. C. (1998, April). Human Sexual Orientation Has a Heritable Component. Human Biology, 70(2), 347-365. Retrieved November 27, 2013, from JSTOR.

Bridgstock, R., L.,Mealey L., & Townsend, G. (1999, January). Symmetry and perceived facial attractiveness: a monozygotic co-twin comparison. J Pers Soc Psychol, 151-158. Retrieved November 27, 2013

Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882). (n.d.). In BBC History. Retrieved November 15, 2013, from

Cornwell, E. R., Law Smith, M. J., Boothroyd, L. G., Moore, F. R., Davis, H. P., Stirrat, M., & Tiddeman, B. (2006, December 29). Reproductive Strategy, Sexual Development and Attraction to Facial Characteristics. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 361(1476), 2143-2154. Retrieved November 27, 2013, from JSTOR.

DeBruine, L. M., & Jones, B. C. (2006). Why are symmetrical faces attractive? , 1-3. Retrieved November 14, 2013, from

Donovan, J. M., Hills, E., & Jankowaik, W. R. (1989, May). Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Truth-of-Consensus in Studies of Physical Attractiveness. The Journal of Sex Research, 26(2), 264-271. Retrieved November 18, 2013, from JSTOR.

Fan, J., Dai, W., Liu, F., & Wu, J. (2005, February 7). Visual Perception of Male Body Attractiveness. Proceedings: Biological Sciences, 272(1560), 219-226. Retrieved November 27, 2013, from JSTOR.

Fink, B., & Penton-Voak, I. (2002, October). Evolutionary Psychology of Facial Attractiveness. Current Directions in Psychological Sciences, 11(5), 154-158. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from JSTOR.

Grammer, K., & Rikowski, A. (1999, May 7). Human Body Odour, Symmetry and Attractiveness. Proceedings: Biological Sciences, 266(1422), 869-874. Retrieved November 27, 2013, from JSTOR.

Kniffin, K. M., & Wilson, D. S. (2004, January 29). The effect of nonphysical traits on the perception of physical attractiveness Three naturalistic studies. Evolution and Human Behavior, 25, 88-101. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from

Natural Selection: Charles Darwin & Alfred Russel Wallace. (n.d.). In Understanding Evolution. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from

Sugiyama, L. (n.d.). Physical attractiveness in adaptationist perspective. In Retrieved November 17, 2013, from

Tovée, M. J., Hancock, P. J., Mahmoodi, S., Singleton, B. R., & Cornelissen, P. L. (2002, November 7). Human Female Attractiveness: Waveform Analysis of Body Shape. Proceedings: Biological Sciences, 269(1506), 2205-2213. Retrieved November 27, 2013, from JSTOR.