1. Humor is sexy
Humor is attractive to men and women — but not in the same way. The research shows women like men who make them laugh, and men like women who laugh at their jokes.
Recent research suggests that while both men and women say they like a "good sense of humor" in a potential mate, they differ in what they mean by this phrase. Women tend to prefer men who make them laugh, whereas men tend to prefer women who laugh at their jokes.
Consistent with this, Robert Provine analyzed more than 3000 singles ads and found that women were more likely to describe their good humor appreciation ability whereas men were more likely to offer good humor production ability.[Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love]
Why is humor sexy? Funny people are smart, and smart is sexy.
Gil Greengross and Geoffrey Miller found in a sample of 400 university students that general intelligence and verbal intelligence both predicted humor production ability (writing captions for cartoons), which in turn predicted lifetime number of sexual partners (a proxy of reproductive success). They found, however, that males showed higher average levels of humor production ability, which is consistent with the sexual selection perspective. From these results, Greengross argues that a sense of humor evolved at least partly through sexual selection as an intelligence indicator. [Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love]
So ladies can boost their attractiveness by chuckling a bit more.
And guys, you can garner more attention by learning how to make women laugh.
Men in the "humor" condition received phone numbers from 42.9 percent of the female participants and were refused 57.1 percent of the time. In comparison, men in the "no humor" condition were refused 84.6 percent of the time and were only accepted 15.4 percent of the time. In other words, men who were observed as the humor producers of the group were nearly three times as likely to receive a phone number than those who were observed as laughing at a friend's joke instead. [Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love]
2. Being liked is sexy
Want to increase someone's interest in you? Might be worthwhile to make sure they find out you're interested in them.
Dr. Aron affirmed that the subjects' expectation that the other person was going to like them had a huge effect. "If you ask people about their experience of falling in love, over 90 percent will say that a major factor was discovering that the other person liked them," according to Dr. Aron. [How to Make Someone Fall in Love With You in 90 Minutes or Less]
This idea is affirmed by studying the effectiveness of "playing hard to get." What's the best way to play that game?
Establish that you're hard to get in general — but very enthusiastic about the person you're with.
As a result of the interviews, the researchers speculated that the best strategy would be to give a potential date the impression that in general you were hard to get (and therefore a scarce resource worth having) but really enthusiastic about him or her specifically. They tested this notion by using some of the same techniques… and found overwhelming evidence to support their hypothesis. [59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute]
3. What you talk about is sexy
Random conversation with someone you're interested in can be a bad idea. Why? What you talk about can matter — a lot.
Emotional, personal information exchange promotes powerful feelings of connection.
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. [Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You]
How effective is it? In under an hour it can create a connection stronger than a lifelong friendship.
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. [Click: The Magic of Instant Connections]
(You can read the most effective things to discuss here.)
That said, don't get so nervous about your words that you can't speak…
When a woman is very attracted to a man, whether his pickup line is good or not doesn't matter at all.
When women are looking for a short-term fling, however, it may be a different story. One study conducted on college students found that women favored men for a short-term fling if they found the men attractive regardless of the content of their pickup lines. [Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love]
4. Personality is sexy
Conscientiousness is predictive of a number of very important positive elements in life.
Agreeable, conscientious people make better spouses and parents — but disagreeable, non-conscientious people have more sex partners. The former invest in quality, and it seems like the latter make up the difference in, well, volume.
Looking to settle down? Check if that person has their ducks in a row, is organized, and easy to get along with. That's marriage material.
Nettle and Clegg reported that in a sample of 545 people, men (but not women) with low levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness tended to have a higher number of sexual partners. It has also been found cross-culturally, across 10 world regions, that low levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness are related to higher levels of sexual promiscuity and relationship infidelity, so there may be reproductive benefits to those on the low end of these traits. [Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love]
5. How they make you feel is sexy
Research shows we don't really fall in love with a person — we fall in love with how we feel when we're with them.
This is best demonstrated by the concept of emotional contagion: We're bad at telling what made us feel a certain way, but good about making associations.
Feeling excited, stimulated, and aroused is often associated with the people around us, even if they're not the cause.
This can be taken to extremes: having someone try to kill you can actually make you more attracted to them.
Those in the high-fear condition did show, for example, significantly more desire to kiss my confederate (one of the key questions) and wrote more romantic and sexual content into their stories. Looking at the details of these results, I found that the situation had generated, quite specifically, romantic attraction. [The Heart of Social Psychology: A Backstage View of a Passionate Science]
…if partners experience excitement from other sources (such as novel and challenging activities) in a shared context, this shared experience can reignite relationship passion by associating the excitement with the relationship. ["Marital Boredom Now Predicts Less Satisfaction 9 Years Later" from Psychological Science, Vol. 20, #5]
6. Love at first sight is sexy
There's still a lot about love and sex that can't be easily quantified. Studies show "love at first sight" is real.
Dr. Earl Naumann, author of Love at First Sight, interviewed and surveyed 1500 individuals of all races, religions, and backgrounds across America, and concluded that love at first sight is not a rare experience. What's more, Dr. Naumann theorizes that if you believe in love at first sight, there's a roughly 60 percent chance it will happen to you. Here's what led him to that conclusion.
Nearly two thirds of the population believes in love at first sight.
Of the believers, more than half have experienced it.
Fifty-five percent of those who experienced it married the object of their affection.
Three quarters of these married couples stayed married.
How can you increase the chance love at first sight happens to you? By believing in it.
More from Barking Up the Wrong Tree...
Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- How Israel's hawks intimidated and silenced the last remnants of the anti-war left
- 10 things you need to know today: August 21, 2014
- Why your employer should clean your house and do your laundry
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- It's time for the police to rethink 'shoot-to-kill'
- The big policy question libertarians can't answer
- The fascinating political evolution of Paul Ryan
- The real lesson of Rick Perry's mug shot
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
Subscribe to the Week