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The Science of Love & Matchmaking

The Science of Love & MatchmakingWhen we say “there’s just something about her,” or the Beatles sing “something in the way she moves,” that something has a name. It’s called “science.”

What was once unknowable, science is making huge strides in uncovering. We can’t predict completely who you’ll fall in love with, but we’re a lot closer than calling it “chemistry,” although for the most part, that’s exactly what it is.

What Exactly Can Science Tell Us?

Studies show that women find symmetrical facial features attractive. In particular, women like masculine qualities such as a prominent chin and cheekbones, a symmetrical and muscular body, with shoulders wider than the hips. Women also rate male faces with beards as more dominant than the same faces clean-shaven. It also doesn’t hurt to be a tall man with a relatively deep voice.

But as much as we may desire this, not all of us can be the Channing Tatum’s of the world. So what happens to the rest of us?

If this description doesn’t apply to you (or me), don’t give up yet. Scientists say that women also rate several nonphysical characteristics very highly. Women find men more attractive if they’re smart, friendly, emotionally stable, and high in status.

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Like Icebergs, 90% of It’s Going On Below The Surface

All pretty obvious? Not so fast. Researchers are uncovering an unexplored world of fascinating human behavior that’s far more complicated and strange and might be that “something” we just can’t put our finger on.

Our brains have the remarkable ability to process, integrate and act on different forms of information such as sound, smell, taste, touch and body language. It may sound odd that this is all happening subconsciously. But imagine we had to consciously interpret all of these factors every time we talked with someone? We would never get anything done! Through our experiences we develop preferences which act as short-cuts to help us make decisions, including the partners we choose.

I Want What You’ve Got

Even if we feel that our choice in a partner is intensely personal, it may actually be strongly influenced by the mate choices of others. Women rate men as more desirable if the man is with a woman than if he’s alone.

One reason for this is it may save time and effort if another woman has already done her due diligence in mate choice. Another is that women use the attractiveness of a man’s sexual partners as an indicator of the quality of the man.  Women also rate men as more attractive if the woman they are with is attractive. And the more attractive the woman is, the more attractive the man is thought to be.

Sucker for Red

Gentlemen, it’s time take that red shirt or tie out of the closet. Recent research has shown that both men and women perceive the color red as a sign of strength, power, and dominance. This perception of red exists across cultures and age groups.

Red has been enamored throughout history and used as a symbol of strength and fertility. Neolithic hunters placed red ocher in graves of their deceased to provide them with life-giving powers. Romans drank the blood of gladiators as a sign of strength and brides wore red as a sign of love and fertility. Physical changes have also been reported in response to red including increased heart beat and enhanced sense of smell. How would you react to receiving a red rose symbolizing love?

Love Is In The Air

Most research on human mate choice focuses on visual cues. However, we’re learning that smell and taste also provide subconscious information about how compatible two people are. Body odor also strongly impacts sexual attraction, bonding and maintaining a relationship. If this sounds strange, consider the last time your partner was away on a business trip. Did you secretly put on their sweater or sleep with their pillow?

Our body odor is largely determined by something called the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). It’s a cluster of genes which make up part of our immune system. An individual’s MHC can be similar or distinct from those around them. Recent scientific research has shown that we subconsciously detect the MHC genes of others through taste and smell. These instinctual preferences help us choose a mate.

What’s very cool and may just be that “something” we’re looking for is that couples in long-term relationships were found to have MHC genes that are very different from their partner’s. This is termed “biological compatibility.” When women were asked to smell shirts worn by men and rank them, they consistently ranked men with MHC genes unlike to their own as more attractive.

Dissimilar MHC genes also influence whether a man sees a woman’s face as attractive or not. In fact, there is convincing evidence that biologically compatible partners not only find each other more attractive, but have more satisfying sex lives, increased fertility rates and produce children with stronger immune systems.


About Instant Chemistry

At Instant Chemistry, we’re developing a way to help professional matchmakers improve their success rate. With a simple cheek swab, we can help matchmakers incorporate MHC information into their matching algorithm. This will help predict if two people are biologically compatible. What this means as a customer is that you will enjoy a greater chance of physical attraction with your future matches. This technique can improve the odds that couples will enjoy instant chemistry and will maintain successful, long-term relationships.

We would love to hear from you about the science of human relationships. Please leave a comment.


This guest article from YourTango was written by Founder Carmelia Ray and appeared as: The Science of Love

More great content from YourTango:

Why Monogamy is Good for Women

Why Younger Women Date Older Men

11 Benefits of Premarital Counseling: Why Even Happy Couples Need It


The Science of Love & Matchmaking

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Contributed by, an online magazine dedicated to love, life and relationships. From dating to marriage, parenting to empty-nest, relationship challenges to relationship success, YourTango is at the center of the conversations that are closest to our over 12 million readers' hearts. With daily contributions from our experts, we have a little something for everyone looking to create healthier lives. We're excited to offer our contributions to the Psych Central community, and invite you to visit us on

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APA Reference
Experts, Y. (2018). The Science of Love & Matchmaking. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 2 Jan 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.