In spite of notions such as love at first sight, soul mates and serendipitous encounters, people have gradually come to rely more on technology when it comes to finding the One. Though Valentine’s Day has passed, there is still room for romance. Many dating applications use intermediaries like computer-generated algorithms, as well as screening techniques like Tinder’s “swipe left, swipe right” or Coffee Meets Bagel’s “like, pass” options to help individuals connect with others.
For some students, online dating apps are viable solutions to finding love. Often viewed as more convenient and efficient in filtering through eligible candidates than randomly approaching an individual at a party, these new platforms offer superior compatibility comparisons that can be assessed before even deciding whether or not to initiate a conversation. Yet when it comes to making sparks fly, there is no replacement for face-to-face meetings.
While guys may round their height up a few inches and and women liberally discount a few pounds, there is no hiding when it comes to the first date. In terms of attraction and first impressions, it seems that natural selection does play a part in determining which fish you think are good catches.
Scientists argue that there is more to “chemistry” than similar interests, compatible horoscope signs, physical attractiveness or proximity. In fact, chemical cues such as pheromones have been found to facilitate arousal and appeal within conspecific pairs. Inspired by earlier findings that indicated that genes which code for proteins called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) could predict mate preferences, biological researcher Claus Wedekind (1995) designed a “sweaty T-shirt” study at Bern University in Switzerland.
In this study, men were told to wear a T-shirt for two days so that the shirts absorbed each man’s natural odor. Women were later asked to rate the various T-shirts on scales of attractiveness. What researchers found was that women were, in fact, most attracted to men with MHC genes that were most different from their own. This indicated that smell guided women to men who might most complement them most by introducing the most genetic variation for their potential offspring.
Meanwhile, when it comes down to facial features and attractiveness, people are often most attracted to those whose traits are more symmetic. Hypotheses suggest that facial symmetry is a good indicator of health, superior genes and cognitive aging. In fact, there are even studies suggesting that there are correlations between facial symmetry and personality traits such as extroversion, conscientiousness and agreeableness.
As for body type, the hourglass shape may still be a valid measure of attractiveness. For both men and women, the role of body weight and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) plays a role in judgments of attractiveness. While we might argue that some of the drivers that influence what people perceive as the ideal versus real body type may be due to cues from social media, much of it does seem to be based in sexual selection.
Despite the extent to which genetic factors and the various mechanisms of evolution may mediate our mating choices, people still have some control over their ability to secure a date. More recent studies have illustrated that the amount of displayed facial happiness may be correlated with perceived attractiveness.
In a 2014 study by psychologist Jessika Golle and her colleagues, attractiveness was found to be influenced by the amount of smiling expressed in a given individual’s face. However, they also found that facial attractiveness increases the degree to which people perceived happiness in a face, which therefore suggests some interdependence. It is not completely clear why this is the case. But whether or not smiling is be an indicator of health, youth and positive energy, adding a smile can give anyone an extra dose of attractiveness and get you that second date
Sabrina Leung ‘18 is the Digital Editor majoring in International Relations-Political Science with a minor in History. She is best reached at email@example.com or @sabrinatzleung on Twitter.