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Study uncovers the biological signs of human attraction

[June 1, 2022: JD Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]

When two people are attracted to one another, their heart rates tend to synchronize and their palms sweat together. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Researchers at Leiden University and the University of Birmingham have found that when two people are attracted to one another, their heart rates tend to synchronize and their palms sweat together. They describe experiments they conducted with volunteers in "dating cabins" in their paper published in Nature Human Behavior.

Prior research and anecdotal evidence indicate that behavior reveals whether two people are attracted to one another upon meeting for the first time. There are a number of recognizable behaviors that indicate this. They include smiling, mimicking behavior, and laughing. However, scientifically, such behaviors have not stood up well to scrutiny. To achieve this new goal, researchers measured physically uncontrollable body functions such as heart rate and palm sweat.


During the experiments, the team set up what the team calls "dating cabins"-little enclosed sheds with a table and two chairs inside. To control when volunteers could see one another, researchers placed a separator in the middle of the table. Additionally, they equipped the cabins with hardware for measuring eye movement, heart rate, and palm sweat. Last but not least, the cabins were set up at public events like concerts and young single people were invited to take part.

Experimental set-up and outline. (Credit: DOI: 10.1038/s41562-021-01197-3)


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Overall, 142 volunteers participated in the study.

The process unfolded as follows:

  • Each of the volunteers was invited into the cabin separately, so that they could not see who was on the other side of the table.

  • After removing the partition for three seconds, the researchers asked the participants to rate their attraction to the other person.

  • The partition was removed again and the two people (of opposite genders) were invited to speak for two minutes.

  • Once again, the barrier was closed, and the volunteers rated their attraction to each other.

  • The barrier was once again removed, and the two people were asked to sit there looking at each other without speaking for two minutes.

  • As before, the partition was again put in place, and volunteers were once again asked to rate their attraction – this time, they were also asked if they would be open to seeing the other person again.


According to the researchers, the scores of attractiveness the volunteers gave each other after a first peek did not stand up to scrutiny. Nor did their behavioral clues. Their study found that it was the heart rate of the volunteers that made a difference. When attracted to one another, their heart rates rose and fell in synchrony over the course of the experiment.

Furthermore, researchers also found some degree of synchronization in the amount of palm sweating.

For more science and technology news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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