Body Language Cues That Increase Physical Attraction

Cues of seduction and attraction.

Posted Oct 01, 2020

Decades of research on nonverbal communication has discovered the cues that lead to greater physical attraction. In early research, we called this “dynamic attractiveness,” to differentiate it from static cues of attractiveness/beauty. Additional research has looked at how people try to be nonverbally seductive.

Here are the body language cues that make someone appear more physically attractive to others:

Positive Affect Is Critical. People who display positive emotions, primarily through facial expressions, are consistently rated as more likable and more attractive as potential dating partners. Smiling is also important, but it’s not as simple as “more is better.” Smiling and positive expressions need to be regulated: Too much smiling can be interpreted as “goofy” and the person as “vacuous.” But a seductive smile goes a long way. In fact, our research on seduction shows that positive affect is critical to someone appearing seductive.

Body Orientation and Openness. It’s no secret that a “closed-off” body posture appears uninviting, and can say “I’m not interested.” Facing the other person invites a connection. An open posture conveys trust and makes it easier to be approached.

The Eyes Have It. When it comes to attraction, eye contact tells us a lot. In fact, research has shown that couples in love engage in mutual gaze—gazing into each other’s eyes—much more than couples who merely like each other. Looking at someone a lot suggests interest, and holding a stranger’s or acquaintance’s gaze a bit longer than is usual can be a cue of seduction. Again, it is important to regulate and be subtle, but all in all, the eyes play a big part in attraction.

Interestingly, if you are trying to determine if someone is experiencing true happiness in your presence, the eyes play a critical role. Psychologist Paul Ekman has discovered that the eyes can tell a “true” smile (what he calls a Duchenne smile) from a “fake” smile. The key? The crow’s feet at the corners of your eyes when smiling and experiencing true happiness. (Find out more about the secret powers of eye contact here.)

Touch, but be careful. No surprise: Touch is an obvious cue of attraction and seduction, but again, appropriateness of the touch is important. In a clearly romantic context, a light brushing of the hand, or knees touching while seated, can be very seductive. But overdoing it, or unwelcome touch, is creepy, if not disturbing.

Here are some other important factors in the use of effective nonverbal communication:

  • It takes work to develop nonverbal communication skill, because there is no “dictionary” for it.
  • Realize what the culture and the context mean for the body language you are using. Some behaviors are appropriate, and others inappropriate, depending on the context.
  • Regulating the expression of nonverbal cues is key.

References

Riggio, R.E., Widaman, K.F., Tucker, J.S., & Salinas, C. (1991). Beauty is more than skin deep: Components of attractiveness. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 12(4), 423-439.

Friedman, Howard S., & Riggio, Ronald E. (1999). Individual differences in ability to encode complex affects. Personality and Individual Differences, 27, 181-194.