There are a number of things that occur naturally in our environment that can alter the attraction we feel for people. These things can seem small, but if a number of them add up (as they often do) they can make a huge impact on the way we feel about someone on first meeting them. Since these elements are so common, we’ve outlined the most important in this mini series so you can use them to your advantage to make a great first impression. A better understanding of these things will also help you and your friends avoid situations where your perceptions of others will be adversely impacted.
Psychologists have long noticed that the closer we are to people, the more likely we are to be attracted to them. They aren’t talking about intimacy, they’re talking to geographical distance. The distance that separates people often influences how attractive they are.
A psychologist named James Bossard looked at around 5000 marriage licences to see what they had in common. He found that about 12% of these couples had lived in the same building and a third lived within five blocks of each other before they got married! That’s a huge proportion.
That study was done in the 1930s and the finding has been replicated over and over again. But why is this? Something you’ll read here quite often, correlation doesn’t always mean causation. That is, just because two things happen together a lot, don’t mean they make each other happen.
Well, we can start by considering the Familiarity principle. The more often we see someone, the more ‘safe’ they probably are. Easy choice between a stranger and the hottie that catches your train. But that’s not all. At the turn of the century, nearly seventy years after Bossard’s paper, psychologists (namely Myers of Myers-Briggs fame) found that the critical factor was what he called ‘functional distance’. Basically, if the distance can facilitate a relationship, it will powerfully predict increases in attractiveness.
Tinder has it right… seventy years after being suggested, we’re only now harnessing the power of proximity.
So, attractiveness isn’t just about your physical qualities. Just as we found in the Familiarity principle, it’s about the environment too. Tinder has it right. Make sure you’re looking for people that are local, or at least easy to get to. Without Myer’s ‘functional distance’, we lose a powerful ally in our relationships.
If you liked this article, check out our last on Familiarity, or our next on Similarity! If I were you I’d want to know the four keys to attraction too. Giving you the dirt on your search for understanding, psychological freedom and ‘the good life’ at The Dirt Psychology.