Not your body language, but your heart rate determines whether you are attracted to someone

Why do you feel a romantic connection with one person and not at all with another? A new study shows that it has everything to do with your heart rate. It’s not your pretty eyes or cute smile that makes someone else fall for you. It is the ability of your hearts to beat at the same rate. Romantic huh?

You wouldn’t think sweaty hands are your sexiest feature, but nothing could be further from the truth. The attraction between two people can be read from the synchronization of their heartbeat and the electrical conduction of the skin. This is the conclusion of a study by psychologist Eliska Prochazkova of the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, published in the research journal ‘Nature Human Behaviour’.

Blind date

Prochazkova and her team explored how the sense of romantic connection is created during blind dates. Their assumption? Attraction, a click, between two people manifests itself in body language, such as mirroring each other’s posture, eye contact and laughter. Nothing turned out to be less true.

The researchers built ‘dating cabins’ at various events, including the popular Lowlands festival. One hundred and forty heterosexual, single youths came on blind dates. Everyone was closely monitored with different devices: eye-tracking glasses that registered their eye movements, but also recorded how they laughed and behaved towards their partner. And sensors that monitored their heart rate and mapped their skin conductance by gauging how the perspiration on their fingers changed.

“Apparently, the attraction between dating partners grows when a sync takes place at this deeper level as well,” according to Psychologist Eliska Prochazkova, Leiden Institute for Brain and Recognition

The young people then had to indicate how attractive they found each other several times during the date: immediately after they saw each other, after they had talked for a while, and after looking each other in the eye for two minutes.

Deeper Level Sync

What turned out? “The hearts of a couple who were attracted to each other synchronized,” says Prochazkova. “If one person’s heart rate rose, the other’s heart rate rose. If one person’s heart rate dropped, the other’s heart rate dropped too. The electrical conduction of the skin followed the same pattern. Apparently, the attraction between dating partners grows when there is also a synchronization at this deeper level.”

But what makes some hearts synchronize and others not? “That’s because of something we call micro-expressions,” says the researcher. “Very small signals that are not visible to the naked eye. Think tiny blinks of the eyes. Because you unconsciously perceive these micro-expressions in another person, you feel good. You notice that he or she understands you on an emotional level. This raises your heart rate.”

Visible body language does not predict the attraction between people. For example, women in the study made extensive use of such signals, in the form of gestures and smiles. Men, on the other hand, stared more at the women: they looked longer at the faces, eyes and bodies. “But none of those signals predicted how much someone was attracted to someone else.” It was the invisible, internal signals such as heart rate and skin conductance that determined this.

The study is the first to show that the ability to synchronize with a partner on a physiological level is an important predictor of sexual attraction.

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