You know the story: Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy and girl have their happily ever after—well at least those relationships that don't end in divorce do.

Every part makes sense except for boy falls in love with girl. Why her? Why not another girl?

The answer is simple: Attraction.

Naturally my next question is: What makes someone attractive?

For a long time, I thought attraction was something inexplicable. It’s some kind of mysterious chemistry—sans the science.

Turns out I was very wrong.

I recently attended a workshop at Jaunty, a program for those interested in developing their social intelligence and people skills for any facet of their lives—whether it be for business or pleasure. (On a side note: This was one of the most informative workshops I’ve ever attended—and if you are either in the San Francisco or New York City area, I highly encourage you to attend one of their free classes.)

Jen Kim
Source: Jen Kim

It was in this workshop that I learned attraction is part of our evolution—dating back to our reptilian brains, millions of years ago.

In fact, the reptilian way of life formed the foundation for the attraction pyramid, illustrated on the left.

Let’s break it down:

At the bottom of the pyramid are status and health. Without status or health, there is no attraction. Which is why they constitute the foundation of the pyramid.

What exactly are status and health?

Both status and health were present in reptilian brain functions, which allowed for flight or flight responses as well as feeding and reproduction. 

Status can be further broken down into two types:

  • Internal – confidence, skill set, belief system
  • External – job, material possessions, visual markers.

Internal and external status are both important, although most people might argue that internal status, particularly confidence, is more attractive than external status in both the short and long term.

Before we continue, I want to say something about confidence.

The reason I attended this workshop was to learn ways to increase my confidence. As a life-long middle child, this is something that I have always wanted to improve about myself. Every article I have ever read about building confidence suggests the same thing: Be yourself!  I don’t know about you—but telling me to be myself doesn’t exactly help. Remember, when I said, I wasn’t confident?

At Jaunty, I learned what confidence really is: Getting as close as you can to mastering a skill.

Jana Zills/Flickr
Source: Jana Zills/Flickr

For example, imagine Taylor Swift performing on stage in front of thousands of fans. At this point, she has put in her 10,000 hours of practice. She’s a pro. She’s not freaking out backstage or vomiting in the bathroom like I would be doing if I were in her position. Taylor Swift has confidence. She will master that stage.

Conversely imagine Taylor being given a hammer and some nails and tasked with building a house. Chances are she probably wont be too confident in this scenario.

We can master social skills too, which is how we become confident in social situations. Perhaps you are a superb storyteller or really funny—those are both skills you can learn and excel at. (No joke: At Jaunty, they teach you how to be funny, I swear!)

Health is straightforward. It includes the way you look, the way you move, the way you smell, or your basic intelligence. After all, most of us are attracted to those who smell good and bathe regularly, right? And most of us are definitely not attracted to those who smell bad and don’t bathe regularly, right? Right.

Once we have status and health secured, we can move onto the next level on the attraction pyramid, which is emotional.

There are four types of emotional connections:

  • Trust and comfort 
  • Emotional intelligence: the ability to make others feel comfortable
  • Uniqueness: That special "je ne sais quoi"  that makes us “us”
  • Uncertainty: The certain level of mystery we have when meeting someone. It’s boring to have all your cards out from day one.

Naturally the emotional stage is where we fall in love and bond. This is the core of our mammalian brain.

At the top of the pyramid is logic. Logic is what separates humans from other mammals—it is how we use our minds to develop and analyze methods of survival. 

Logic also helps us ensure that the person we are talking to is practically aligned with us. For example, do we both want marriage? Do we both want kids? Do we both live in the same city? The argument is: With greater alignment, there is greater attraction.

Cali4beach/FlickrCC
Source: Cali4beach/FlickrCC

That’s all of it. That’s attraction.

Remember though, for budding online romances especially, the pyramid is inverted. Typically, you first make a logical connection, then an emotional one, and finally a status and health based one. That's why it's in your best interest to meet people as soon as possible—so you can see if there is a basic physical attraction (status and health) present. Unlike the other two stages, health and status can only be validated in person.

Do you agree? What do you think attraction is?

Follow me on Twitter @thisjenkim

Learn more about Jaunty: jaunty.org

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Taylor Swift Flickr Photo link

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