"Opposites attract." Like attracts like." These contradictory phrases attempt to explain mutual attraction, and why you might find yourself smitten by a certain someone. Although "chemistry" is a difficult concept to define, those who have experienced it immediately recognize the feeling when it happens to them. Physical attraction is definitely part of the chemical equation, but it doesn't tell the whole story. While some modern researchers attempt to find a scientific explanation for the phenomenon, it still remains elusive.
Changes Over Time
Some people believe in love at first sight -- that immediate jolt of electricity that signals powerful attraction and instant connection to someone you've just met. It's sometimes accompanied by a sense of recognition, such as a feeling that you knew each other in a previous life. However, for this initial surge of chemistry to develop into long-lasting love, it's necessary to deepen the relationship beyond the desire for sexual activity. Over time, as the couple communicates with each other, confide in, listen to and support each other, the love can grow and withstand the test of time.
Similarities or Differences
Two people who feel chemistry for each other might explain the attraction as based upon the commonalities between them. Relationship expert Dr. Laura Berman says we're often attracted to people who look similar to us because we're innately drawn to the familiar. We're also more likely to feel relaxed and comfortable with those who share our backgrounds and worldviews. However, chemistry can also exist between unlike persons. Helen Fisher, PhD, author of, "Why Him? Why Her?" suggests that chemistry can occur when people recognize that their traits complement each other.
Scientific research reported in The Economist explored the role biology plays in the attraction process. Animal studies found a connection between the release of brain chemicals such as dopamine, vasopressin and oxytocin and sexual attraction. Research has also found that natural hormones and birth control influence attraction. The Wall Street Journal reports research findings in which men were more attracted to women during the fertile phase of their ovulation cycle, probably due to pheromones, the subtle smells that people exude.
Although there are some differences between how men and women experience the chemistry of attraction, there are some surprising similarities. Dr. Helen Fisher found that over 80 percent of both men and women regard talking about their relationship as an important way to fuel their attraction. Science Daily reports that physical beauty is important to both genders, as is earning power. Other factors, including kindness and a sense of humor, also ranked highly with both genders as contributing to the chemistry between two people.
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- Dr. Laura Berman: The Chemical Symphony of Attraction
- Psychology Today: Helen E. Fisher, Ph.D.
- The Economist: I Get a Kick Out of You
- Science Daily: What Men And Women Say And Do In Choosing Romantic Partners Are Two Different Matters
- New English Review: Genuine Romantic Love: Attraction, Attachment, and Attunement
- MSN.com: Romance Report
- The Wall Street Journal: The Tricky Chemistry of Attraction
- Smithsonian.com: The Truth About Pheromones
Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.