The Fascinating Brain Science That Impacts Who We're Attracted To

Updated 05/17/19
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"He/she just gets me." Sound familiar? According to a new study published in the journal PNAS, that reason—the feeling of mutual understanding—for being attracted to someone is more science than mere turn of phrase.

Researchers found that we are attracted to people whose emotions we feel we can easily understand. This makes sense. After all, a functional relationship is built from successful, empathetic communication and mutual understanding. If we are always questioning our partner's intentions and motivations, the relationship would surely be fraught with mistrust. The findings of the study suggest that the reason for this cause for attraction, however, has to do with brain science.

the science of attraction—brain study
@Claire_Most

According to the study, of the subjects studied, "the more certain a person was about how a woman was feeling, the more attracted they were to her. Higher levels of certainty and attraction were also associated with more activity in the area of the brain that processes rewards." Thus, the ability to understand someone's feelings lights up the brain’s reward center and causes us to feel attraction.

One of the most exciting aspects of the study, according to study author Silke Anders, was the fact that "understanding and personal attraction seem to depend on both the sender’s brain and the perceiver’s brain, and on how well they match." What's more, these findings suggest a pathway to understanding relationship misfires and misunderstandings. If you're finding your communication skills to be missing the mark, you needn't despair entirely and throw in the towel on the relationship. Rather, “if communication does not work as smoothly as expected...

it could simply mean that the overlap of [each individual's] neural vocabulary is not yet large enough," Anders notes.

There's hope yet!

This post was originally published on April 6, 2016, and has since been updated.

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