7 science-based tips to make you sexier on Valentine’s Day
1) Definitely stare deep in their eyes
Oliver Burkeman’s Help! How to be slightly happier and get a bit more done pointed me to evidence that staring into each other’s eyes really does increase attraction:
In two studies, subjects induced to exchange mutual unbroken gaze for 2 min with a stranger of the opposite sex reported increased feelings of passionate love for each other.
2) Still early in the relationship? Talk about travel, not movies.
When talking about movies, less than 9 percent of the pairs wanted to meet up again, compared to 18 percent when participants spoke about the top topic—travel.
3) Want to look more attractive?
How long does it take to determine if someone is hot? Thirteen milliseconds. Really: thirteen milliseconds.
To find out exactly how quickly we can tell if a person is hot or not, neuroscientists Ingrid Olson and Christy Marshuetz devised a sneaky experiment. They exposed men and women to a series of pre-rated faces, some gorgeous and other homely, and asked them to rate their appearance. The twist was that the faces flickered on the screen for only thirteen milliseconds — a flash so fast that the exasperated viewers swore they didn’t see anything. Yet when forced to rate the faces they thought they didn’t see, the judges were uncannily accurate.
So you don’t have a lot of time but there are some things you can do:
- Beauty sleep? Yeah, it’s real. Get some.
4) Forget a boring dinner. Go somewhere exciting for Valentine’s Day.
The research points again and again to how important thrills are:
- What reignited passion in long term marriages? Doing exciting things together.
- Think a pleasant evening is all it takes? Researchers did a 10 week study comparing couples that engaged in “pleasant” activities vs “exciting” activities. Pleasant lost.
- Why would doing anything exciting have such a big effect on a relationship? Because we’re lousy about realizing where our feelings are coming from. Excitement from any source will be associated with the person you’re with, even if they’re not the cause of it.
The fun moments are more powerful than the bad moments: “…how you celebrate is more predictive of strong relations than how you fight.”
Shelly Gable, professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has demonstrated that how you celebrate is more predictive of strong relations than how you fight.
5) Go ahead and babytalk
It’s a good thing:
Individuals who had babytalked to friends or romantic partners tended to be more secure and less avoidant with regard to attachments in general. Within a particular romantic relationship, indicators of intimacy and attachment accounted for about 22% of the variance in babytalk frequency. Partner’s babytalking was the strongest predictor, accounting for about 42% of the variance. Communication intentions accompanying babytalk paralleled the hallmarks of attachment, especially affection and play. These and other results suggest that babytalk functions in the process of intimate personal connection.
6) Best Valentine’s Day gift?
Studies show people like your gifts more when you stop being so creative and just get them what they want.
Dan Ariely, author of the excellent Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, adds to that saying:
In summary, I think that the best gifts circumvent guilt in two key ways: by eliminating the guilt that accompanies extravagant purchases, and by reducing the guilt that comes from coupling payment with consumption. The best advice on gift-giving, therefore, is to get something that someone really wants but would feel guilty buying otherwise.
(Did you receive a lousy gift for Valentine’s Day? Here are pro tips on how to act like you’re not horribly disappointed.)
7) Ask the right questions
Arthur Aron studies what makes people connect quickly and deeply and has found it can be a matter of just asking the right questions.
Via Sam Gosling’s book, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You:
Arthur Aron, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is interested in how people form romantic relationships, and he’s come up with an ingenious way of taking men and women who have never met before and making them feel close to one another. Given that he has just an hour or so to create the intimacy levels that typically take weeks, months, or years to form, he accelerated the getting-to-know-you process through a set of thirty-six questions crafted to take the participants rapidly from level one in McAdams’s system to level two.
But how effective can this be really? In under an hour it can create a connection stronger than a lifelong relationship.
What he found was striking. The intensity of the dialogue partners’ bond at the end of the forty-five-minute vulnerability interaction was rated as closer than the closest relationship in the lives of 30 percent of similar students. In other words, the instant connections were more powerful than many long-term, even lifelong relationships.
(You can read some of Aron’s questions used here.)
Is all this making you a little crazy?
That’s okay. Love could be classified as a mental illness:
In the book Love Sick: Love as a Mental Illness, Frank Tallis writes that if we take the symptoms of falling in love and “check them against accepted diagnostic criteria for mental illness, we find that most ‘lovers’ qualify for diagnoses of obsessional illness, depression or manic depression.” Other symptoms include insomnia, hyperactivity, and loss of appetite. Ah, ain’t love grand?
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