Psych37News - What Makes Us Fall in Love?
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What Makes Us Fall In Love?

This is a tricky question because love is a subjective experience that is hard to define. That is, that which makes Amy fall in love with Derrick could totally repulse Tracy. In fact, some experts on love (i.e., psychologists, sociologists, and even theologians) believe that true love can't be explained in words; it can only be felt. With that in mind, let's ease down the slippery slope of trying to explain life's greatest action and emotion--love. 

It's important to note here that there are different types of loves. Agape love is Christian love and speaks to the unconditional, sacrificial love that Jesus Christ had for everyone. Philia love, or brotherly love, is the type of love that you find between friends. Then there's eros love. Eros love is romantic, intimate love. 

Psychology has researched four factors that contribute to attraction and eros love. 

Physical Attraction
If anyone tells you that beauty doesn't matter when it comes to who they like, they're lying. Beauty does matter when it comes to attraction. Therefore, the question isn't, "does beauty matter?" The question is, "how much does it matter?"

The research is still conflicting about how much beauty matters. And really, part of the reason that the research is conflicting is because beauty is very important to some and not so much to others. Additionally, your definition of beauty may change (or the better or the worse) as you begin to learn more about your partner. 

Psychologists may not be sure about how much beauty matters, but we definitely know it matters to some extent. It's sort of like toilet paper on your grocery list. It may not be at the top of the list, but it's on the list somewhere.

Proximity
Another factor in the love game is proximity or how physically close you are to someone. Have you have worked with someone who is so not your type? However, after months or even years of working with that person you found yourself falling for him/her? 

Psychologists have found that we choose who we like and love from the people to which we have access. This factor nearly disproves the idea that there is one person in the world created for you. What are the odds that you would cross paths with that one person made for you when the world has 7 billion people in it, and you only cross paths with 100 of them on the daily bases?

Perhaps there is a wonderful Canadian girl who would be as perfect a match for you, but you don't have access to her. Under the idea of proximity, there could be hundreds of people who would fit you "perfectly" and the first one that crosses your path is the magic one.

Interestingly, this factor has been affected by the online dating trend. For example, proximity may not be as important at the beginning of relationships now that we can see and talk to others via computer.

Similarity
It makes sense that people who share beliefs and attitudes would be attracted to each other. Multicultural factors like race, socioeconomic status, religion and age are all things that make you more attracted to another person. In 2010, interracial couples made up 8% of all marriages. While this number has increased steadily over the last several decades, it still means that 92% of all marriages are within races.

What about opposites? Do birds of a feather flock together or do opposites attract?

Reciprocity of Liking
Unlike the factors mentioned above, this factor may be foreign to you. The reciprocity of liking factor means that people like those who like them. Have your feelings for someone ever increased after finding out that they have a crush on you? If so, that's the concept of the reciprocity of liking.

Research has demonstrated that there is one group of people that isn't positively affected by this factor of love--people with low self esteem. People who don't have reasons to like themselves have a hard time understanding why others might like them. Therefore, instead of being positively affected by being liked, they are actually suspicious of those who express an interest in them. 

How many of these factors are present in your current relationship?