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The Psychology of Attraction

psychology of attraction

Do people find you attractive?

Attraction isn’t only about looks. It’s about a certain primal magnetism. Of course, we can be physically attracted to someone, but we are more often drawn to their confidence, passion and personality. Being attractive is about more than just appearance. In fact:

Attractiveness is the basis of all human relationships. click to tweet

Let me explain. Not only is attraction the basis of finding a romantic partner, but we are also attracted to work with certain people. We are attracted to certain friendships. We are even attracted to certain coffee shops because we like their vibe, their menu or their location. Attractiveness is an essential part of understanding what motivates people.

If you want to make people want you, if you want to be attractive, if you want to understand people, you need to learn:

The Rules of Attraction

#1: Stop Being Boring

Our brains are like really hungry toddlers–they are easily bored and demand to be fed with entertaining nuggets. Being “hot” simply isn’t enough.

people skills, body language, how to influence people, how to be interesting

New York Times best-selling author and developmental molecular biologist, John Medina discovered that the brain has a very short attention span. Our brains are attracted to intriguing, interesting, engaging people and things. Luckily, you are an intriguing, interesting, engaging person!

Yes, I have met thousands of people at speaking events, conferences and networking parties and I have never met a boring person.

Sometimes we act boring because we are afraid of being seen as “weird” or “different”. So we have the same the mind-numbingly boring social script of “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?”. We don’t share how we really feel, we hide our quirks and try to fit in. But you know what? Fitting in sucks. It’s dull and unattractive.

Our fear of not fitting in makes us boring. click to tweet


Scientific research has shown us that there are tools we can use to fight the boring, increase our attractiveness and make us more memorable. Read on…

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#2: You Have 30 Seconds, Go

Don’t let anyone tell you different. People judge you the moment you walk in the room.

If we get rid of social niceties and get down to the science, attraction happens in the first 30 seconds. And, as much as we don’t like to admit it, our brain decides if we are attracted to someone else almost instantly.

Research shows we know if we want to sleep with someone in the first 30 seconds of meeting them.  click to tweet

Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher studied hundreds of couples in love and found that the human body knows within one second whether someone’s physically attractive or not. We might not realize it, but our brains make incredibly accurate and long-lasting snap judgements in the first few seconds of meeting a new person.

In the non-dating world of attraction science, research shows we get a little bit more time to make a first impression, but not by much. The scientific term for first impressions is thin-slicing, a coin termed by Nalini Ambady of Tufts University. Ambady wanted to test how accurate our first impressions are. She videotaped 13 teachers and showed 30 second clips to participants. She asked the participants to rate the teachers effectiveness. Ambady then compared these ratings to the teachers’ end-of-semester evaluations from actual students.

The participants accurately predicted which teachers would be the most successful–from just 30 seconds of video.

Ambady even shortened the clips to 15 seconds, and then to six. Again, the students could correctly predict the most successful teachers. So, you have six seconds, what will you do with them?

#3: The Single Hottest Trait

What turns you on? Eyes? Humor? Legs? Research shows that a person’s most attractive trait is their availability. Yet, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of how people work. And this is important for every area of life.

In dating it is about physical availability “Will this person mate with me?”

In friends and long-term romantic partners it is about emotional availability. “Will this person open up to me?”

In business it is about economic and intellectual availability. “Will this person work with me?”

The best way to show availability whether it is at a networking event, party, business meeting or date is by demonstrating availability. Show people you want to connect, talk and start a relationship. A woman at an event once asked me: “Isn’t it obvious that I’m available to connect? I’m here aren’t I?”

Showing up is NOT enough! You have to show people you are emotionally available to connect. love and psychology


Try This: At your next social event make a point of telling people why you are there and what you are looking for. Something like, “I’m excited to meet you because I was hoping to make some really interesting connections at this event.” Or, “This event is going great, I came wanting to stir up some business and I have already passed out a few business cards. May I give you one?” We don’t realize that our availability isn’t as obvious as we think. Try showing it and you will be pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and curious people are in return.

The other way you can show availability is nonverbally. Read on:

#4: Sexy Body Language

Open body language is more attractive than any outfit, hairstyle or dance move.

Female and male body language also differ. Here is an overview of female body language to watch out for:

You can also use body language to show availability and increase your attractiveness in interactions.

  • Open Torso:  Body language research has shown that keeping your torso, chest and abdomen open to the world is best way to show availability. Crossed arms, clutching a wine glass in front of your stomach, checking a phone in front of your chest or hugging a purse to your center are all ways we close our body language and seem unavailable. Studies have shown that we actually close our body language when we are feeling mentally closed off.
  • Hands: We love to see people’s hands. Studies have found that when we can’t see people’s hands we have trouble trusting them. When you put your hands in your pockets, tuck them under the table or hide them behind a coat, you’re attractiveness decreases because people can’t open up to you.

attractive body language, psychology of attraction

Image #1: Blocked Torso and Hidden Hands         Image #2: Open Torso and Hands Visible

An interesting story about how open body language and open-mindedness go hand in hand: I was people watching at a networking event and watched a man and woman chatting. At the beginning of the conversation the woman was holding her purse in front of her chest and the man was holding his wine glass in front of him. At one point the man made a joke and both of them began to laugh. You could see them emotionally relax and open up. At that moment the woman swung her purse over her shoulder and opened up her body language. In the very next second the man placed his glass on the cocktail table next to them and pulled out a business card. They continued speaking the rest of the night.

*If you want to add sexuality to the attractiveness you can also expose your neck (think Marilyn Monroe tilting her head back and laughing). From a body language perspective an open, exposed or stroked neck is not only more sensual but also releases tantalizing pheromones. See more about this in the video above.

new_logo_asteriskTry This: Be honest with yourself. How often do you stand with your arms crossed at an event? Check your phone out of nervous habit? These make you seem unapproachable and unavailable–and therefore unattractive. On your next date or at your next event challenge yourself to not check your phone, keep your hands out of your pockets and uncross your arms.

These 4 Rules of Attraction are the essentials to get you started on understanding the dynamics of people. When you’re ready get our 7 Scientifically Proven Steps to Increase Your Influence:

How to Be Memorable

#1: Turn People On

#2: Be Emotionally Horny

#3: Let’s Get Physical

#4: Go Naked

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Check out our course on the nonverbal science of attraction, the body language cues of flirting and the psychology of love and seduction:

Discover a completely new way to date. Watch a free preview: Body Language of Love and Dating

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a published author and behavioral investigator. She is a Huffington Post columnist and her courses and research has been featured on CNN, Forbes, Business Week and the Wall Street Journal. As a published Penguin author, Vanessa regularly speaks and appears in the media to talk about her research. She is a sought after consultant and speaker.


  1. Danielle McRae

    It’s interesting to think of attractiveness NOT just in the dating world. We want to be attractive to our friends, co-workers, and even strangers! I love the tip of asking interesting questions, instead of the “societal norm” questions like, “Where are you from?” In the past, I’ve been scared to open up because I don’t want people to think I’m weird, but they probably just thought I was boring. Great advice!

    1. outlander

      I agree Danielle. In fact when you think about it, if we are boring we may still seem weird. So we may as well go for it. Better to chance being weird than to be boring and weird.

      1. Danielle McRae

        Hi outlander, exactly! Go big or go home. – Danielle and the Science of People Team

      2. Bella Perennis

        Haha totally, as long as one comes across as weird AND friendly there’s really no problem with weird.

  2. Bronson

    “Do courtship at least 3 times.” I still miss the cues because I’m accustomed to meeting people who aren’t retarded and can actually use their words like adults.

    “Men are attracted to lifted neck area, roundness of face, and love shiny hair.”

    Newsflash. Tilting and lifting neck, chin, and moving shiny hair out of the way gives a better view of cleavage. The problem is she thinks like a woman. They spend hours on their hair, make-up, and outfit thinking we give a damn about hair, outfit, and make-up. St the end of the night, the hair is wrecked, the outfit on the floor, possibly damaged from a fit of passion, and the makeup is smeared and/or all over the sheets and pillow. And in that state men are most aroused. It’s not like they stop intercourse and are like, “Sorry, I can’t keep it up. Your hair is a mess, your makeup is gone, and your clothes are in a heap on the floor. Please go now.”

    “Men are attracted to swishing, something about fertility and estrogen.”

    No, it’s your butt we’re checking out. It really is that simple.

    “Shiny hair means fertility.”

    And we’ll still go for the babe with curves with a dull sheen over a vanilla chick with shiny hair. You can’t fool us into being attracted to inferior goods.

    1. Michi

      Ever think of how larger hips, rounder butt, fuller breasts, etc. are signs of health and fertility? That if you get down to it, even this is from our natural mating need. You understand what you like, maybe attempt to understand why you like it now.

  3. sanchita

    Hi Vanessa.I have loved all your videos on science of body language.i also want to apply the same on myself.I am overweight .do u think weight might be the biggest reason for me to look unhealthy and unattractive.

    1. Yada Dykstra

      I don’t think extra weight is a huge issue with attractiveness – so many women are plus size models and chased after. However I think its issues with self-confidence and worry that can cause other people to view you as not attractive. I went through a huge weight gain myself and realized that with my weight my confidence decreased, I became introverted and boring.
      With confidence your true personality and emotionally exciting aura shines through!

    2. The Badger

      I am a male and can only comment on my preferences. However, I have found that the shape of the body is more important than the weight of the body. If you can work out an hourglass, it still triggers a guy. Add to that the ‘available’ and ‘happy’ vibe and while your dance card may not be as full as a size 6, it certainly will have a few names on it.

  4. Mouli

    I really love this site and you people. I like your psychological facts and the way your educating us. I was related to film making.
    I want to ask you some question “Why do people love cinema? What are the main reasons for a film success? What kind of a film people like most? “.
    I am so curious for your reply and hoping that you would consider my questions too.
    Thank you <3

  5. Unknown

    Real phycology: Phycology is fake and meaning of words are not what people really think they are for instance. Why do some words give off different type of energy feel with the meaning of how they/you interpreted it. If you pay attention which some people can not and will never be able to pick up on this because of there comprehensions in the mind of understanding sound waves and other things. What does the different type of energy feeling mean with these specific words like killing, control, hatred and sometime words that do with specific body parts. Though no one will never understand this but a lot will and will never say anything like Women. Since they created this shit. To help and same time so use it for control so what ever its a bunch of crap

  6. Ethan White

    I’m just going to jump in here and say I disagree with #1. Sure, no one likes a drab, slow-talking, monotone, quiet black hole in the room, but you don’t want to come bursting into the room screaming at the top of your lungs all night.

    People will instantly think, “Attention whore,” and for most, it’s a 100% turn off for both males and females.
    Nobody likes a loud, obnoxious imbecile.

    On the other hand, this might depend on their respective ages, I suppose. Younger females (late teens) may find this OK if they see the behavior in older males, since it conveys that mentally, the male is close to their own maturity level.

    But any male or female 25 years old or above is NOT going to find this behavior attractive. They’re going to find it immature, uneducated, insecure, unattractive, and basically lacking in sex appeal.

    During my late 20s, I had more females show interests in me at social gatherings when I was being casual, rather than loud and obnoxious.

    The only time loud, pompous, and obnoxious ever worked worth a toot for me was between the ages of 18 – 22. After that, adulthood kicked in, and females the same age as me were already much more mature than I was.

    1. gadget93

      Why not consider something called moderation. She is correct that you don’t want to be boring. That does not mean that one has to be boisterous & loud as you suggest. One word…..moderation.

  7. Deborah Larson

    I love your article, I think we all want to be heard and feel like what we are saying is important to the other person so for a person to be attentive is very important in business and personal settings, also having a cell phone at a lunch or dinner meeting is really rude and if a vendor does that I don’t use them even if they are capable because I don’t feel like they will be present in conversations and difficult to deal with on a project

  8. Bella Perennis

    “We don’t realize that our availability isn’t as obvious as we think.” What a great quote! I feel like this is sooo true. It’s the same thin about offering help. Sometimes people tell me that they didn’t accept my offer/help because they thought I only made it to be polite. I now made it a point to stress the fact that they really really can contact me about something they need.

  9. Liam Hayes

    I loved this article. I find this stuff fascinating, especially the being available advice.

  10. Lauren Freeman

    I really love this article, there are SO many great tips to apply here in a variety of settings. One thing I’m really nervous about right now is finding and making new friends when I move out of my tiny college town (Gainesville, FL) and into the real world. Instead of being boring and introverted, I will be able to use these tips to my advantage and be more “emotionally available” and attractive to new people I meet and foster great friendships that way. Thanks Vanessa!

  11. yearofthejacquie

    i run a business so i have no problem interacting with clients but in my personal life i don’t have many friends, probably because my business comes first and i’d rather work than hang out (which means spending money rather than making it)

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