To understand modern day nonverbal signals of attraction and the science of flirting, it is helpful to look at the history of where our body language comes from. Our caveman ancestors used the same body language we use today. Here are the messages we are trying to send with our body language to potential mates, and what is seen as attractive:
- I’m open
- I’m harmless
- I’m interested
- I’m approachable
- I’m fertile
The question is, how does attraction happen?
Step One: First Impressions
Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, says that the human body knows within one second whether someone’s physically attractive or not. Here are the body language cues that humans find most attractive:
- Availability: Both males and females find people with available body language the most attractive. Available body language is smiling, uncrossed arms, uncrossed legs and upward gazing (not looking down at shoes or phones).
- Fertility: From an evolutionary perspective, humans are tuned into body language cues that signal fertility and youth. Luckily, these can be emphasized with body language. For men, standing up straight, squaring the shoulders, planting feet slightly more than shoulder width apart and displaying hands are all signs of fertility. For a woman, keeping your hair down, tilting your head to expose pheromones and keeping hands and wrists visible to display the soft skin of the wrists are highly attractive for men.
Step Two: Attract Them While You Can
Once our mind decides we like someone as a potential mate our body automatically begins to change physically to attract the person. Our cheeks flush to make us look like we are aroused, our lips swell to look more fertile and even our pheromones pump to attract the other person. There are a few things we can do to attract a mate from a body language perspective.
- Lean In: Leaning towards someone is a nonverbal way of telling them you are engaged. This works especially well if you are in a group of people and you are interested in one person in the group. A way to show them you are interested is by leaning towards them. This subconsciously will pull them in your direction.
- Head Tilting: Head tilting shows interest and engagement. If you are speaking with someone, let them know you are present and interested by tilting your head and gazing at them. Be sure to not look over their head or around the room, this shows lack of interest and sensitivity.
Step Three: Find the Signs
So, what are the actual signs of attraction? How do they come out in the body? Here are some body language cues for attraction:
1. Flushed and Blushed
When we are attracted to someone, blood will flow to our face, causing our cheeks to get red. This happens to mimic the orgasm effect where we get flushed. It is an evolutionary way the body tries to attract the opposite sex. This is why women wear blush. This also happens with lips and eyes. The redder the lips and the whiter the eyes the more fertile and attractive someone is.
2. The Power of the Purse
Purse behavior is a form of nonverbal communication. It is how someone interacts with their environment based on their emotions. The purse is an interesting indicator of nonverbal behavior. For example, if a woman is feeling uncomfortable or not attracted to someone she will either clutch her bag tightly or place it in front of or covering her body. When a woman is attracted to a man she literally and figuratively wants nothing to stand in the way between her and her man. If she is loosely holding her purse and it is not blocking her front this shows she is at ease and feels more attraction. Better yet, if she puts it on the floor, a nearby table or on the back of the chair she wants it out of the way for her interactions with you. [Please note context here, if you are in a very public or potentially dangerous location she could be gripping her purse for safety concerns, but in a casual place or on a date this can be a good indicator].
I was actually at a singles event the other night and watched a man and woman talking. The woman had her purse partially blocking her body and was tightly gripping the handle under her arm. Then the man told her he was a doctor and the woman literally swung her purse up and over her shoulder out of the way. It was amazing.
3. Their Heart Races
“He makes my heart race” is no cliche. Studies have found that when someone is near an attractive person their heart rate increases. AND this works both ways. Researchers tried increasing someone’s heart rate and then put him or her near a stranger. This then artificially made the person seem even more attractive. People seem more attractive when our heart is racing. I wouldn’t recommend taking someone’s pulse on a date or in a bar, but you can see someone’s breathing rate increase and you can feel the heat of their palm if you are holding their hand and want to go in for a kiss.
4. Their Feet Like You
The feet serve as a direct reflection of a person’s attitude. The key is to recognize where a person’s feet are pointed. When the feet are pointed directly toward another person, this is a sign of attraction, or at the very least, genuine interest. If, on the other hand, the feet are pointed away or towards the exit, this means that signs of attraction are probably not present.
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.
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