what makes you think someone is attracted to you?
June 5, 2009 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Attraction detection: what makes you think someone is attracted to you? (not what makes you attracted to them) and how accurate are people's beliefs that someone is attracted to them?

I don't just mean flirting, because lots of people (myself included) naturally flirt with just about everyone, regardless of actually being attracted to them. Its just how mode of communication is perceived or whatever. I also don't necessarily mean this in the context of a relationship. I'm frankly more interested from the perspective of acquaintances/strangers/friends/people you aren't dating.

I also know there are people out there who incorrectly think practically everyone is attracted to them, so I'm not talking about that. I'm making the assumption that you are a level headed, reasonable person.

So what makes you think someone is attracted to you? And how accurate are we when we think that someone is attracted to us?
posted by gwenlister to Human Relations (18 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Basically (and it doesn't happen often, believe me folks!), if a girl is showing a strong conversational interest in me and there's no other obvious reason (I'm not really saying anything interesting or funny, she's not trying to get a job or some other ulterior motive), I know she's probably interested. Also, if she's going out of her way to touch me, AND she's not one of those people who touches everyone inappropriately.

As for "how accurate are we when we think that someone is attracted to us," I don't know that that's answerable. Or at least I lack the science to do so.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:35 AM on June 5, 2009

Usually it's a gut feeling, a "vibe" type thing. That's probably not helpful.
Random text messages or facebook comments about absolutely nothing usually make me think "AHA! He wants me!"
Back when I was in college and everyone was on AIM 24/7, this was an easy test to see if someone was attracted to me: leave an away message that had some kind of slight innuendo, and seriously, any guy who was interested in me always IMed me with some kind of flirty comment about the away message with a winking face. As stupid or manipulative as it sounds, it worked, every time, I would say to myself 'hmm I wonder if so-and-so will IM me if I put this up" and they always did! Just keep in mind that I went to a tech school - 75% guys, all of them a bit nerdy, so maybe this kind of thing wouldn't work on normal people with good social skills.
If it's someone you don't talk to at all but notice them looking once in a while, then there's probably some attraction, obviously, unless you have something funny stuck/drawn on your face.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:56 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Lots of eye contact.
posted by orange swan at 8:57 AM on June 5, 2009

The way I look (my clothes, hair, glasses, etc) is somewhat different than average (not better, just different) so I actually get engaged about my appearance with total strangers on a pretty frequent basis. Sometimes it's straight girls who want to know if I had to bleach my hair before I dyed it, sometimes it's sweet little old men who want to know how many pairs of glasses I own. I know they're not attracted to me.

I guess most people who approach me about my looks are simply curious. I can tell they're not attracted to me, just amused. The dudes who are hitting on me seem more to have a view like I look like this solely to appeal to them. "I like that! That's hot!" vs "I think your outfit is cute," you know?

There's that totally obvious thing where they eye you up and down, too. Don't think you're being subtle, fellas.

When it's someone I actually have a chance of getting with, I can tell they're attracted to me to when they kiss me back, basically. I'm totally ballsy about making moves but secretly scared of being rejected so when I move in for a kiss and they kiss back it's the "OH MY GOD THEY LIKE ME TOO FUCK YES!" moment.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:02 AM on June 5, 2009

Are we talking about people we're interacting with, or just strangers in public? In the latter case, I've sometimes noticed women glancing at me when they have no practical reason to. This makes me think either that they find me attractive, or that there's something on my face.
posted by ambulatorybird at 9:27 AM on June 5, 2009

I've often found that when someone is very attracted to you, they will listen you quite attentively, as if an avid student trying to absorb and savor every word you say. As the person on the other side, you will suddenly find yourself feeling a very charming interesting individual, but you'll not necessarily pick up that, in fact, you are being lusted after by your conversational partner.

I would also just like to add that I find Juliet Banana highly attractive, both objectively and style-wise. And I'm married, so I've got nothing to gain from observing so.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:38 AM on June 5, 2009

Response by poster: Are we talking about people we're interacting with, or just strangers in public?

I'm asking more in the lines of people we are interacting with.
posted by gwenlister at 9:46 AM on June 5, 2009

Response by poster: Also, it bares asking how much OUR attraction to someone can cloud our perception of their attraction towards us. Since we find them attractive, we probably want them to find us attractive as well, so how much is it wish fulfillment?
posted by gwenlister at 9:52 AM on June 5, 2009

There are several body-language cues that tell you if someone is into you:

1. physical mirroring (your cross your arms, so do they; you lean forward, they lean forward)
2. slight pupil dilation when engaging in eye contact
3. lingering eye contact, often with the person glancing away, then back at you, with some intensity
4. Subtle touching signals -- when another person starts subconsciously grooming or playing with their body parts, like brushing their arms, or face, they are signaling to you that they wish to appear attractive and want to be touched

Articles about body language abound on the webs.

Also, from personal experience, if you get close enough to smell another person's breath (and like it) or get a frisson of electricity between the two of you when your bodies are close enough to touch, it's virtually always mutual. That has to do more with pheremones than anything, though.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:06 AM on June 5, 2009 [6 favorites]

Woman here. I've noticed a very characteristic look from men who are attracted to me: if his eyes go wide and shiny in a particularly intense way when we're speaking, that's all I need to know. It's a remarkably consistent type of look from individual to individual.

There is a documented phenomenon referred to as the "copulatory gaze" which I believe accounts for the shiny eyes look -- it may be the dilated pupils that give the eyes the super-sparkly quality.

If I am attracted back to a man, I'll often discount this as "seeing what I want to see," but that's just my lack of self-confidence really. The look itself is pretty unmistakable.
posted by trunk muffins at 10:11 AM on June 5, 2009 [6 favorites]

Women playing with their hair while they talk to you can be a sign of attraction.
posted by alms at 10:19 AM on June 5, 2009

Oh yes yes, I've had friends point out to me that I can't stop playing with my hair or touching it in some way if I'm around a boy I find attractive. I only notice it when someone points it out, so it's definitely a subconscious thing!
posted by KateHasQuestions at 1:27 PM on June 5, 2009

I've heard smiles are a good hint. But I instinctively get worried that they're suppressing a laugh, and I've got stuff on my face, fly open, etc.
posted by whycurious at 2:39 PM on June 5, 2009

The eyes. I can tell by the emotion of the eyes. There is a certain way that the eyes focus and unfocus; the softening and then sharpening of gaze. Sometimes the timbre of the voice in regular conversation.

The air of vulnerability.
posted by jadepearl at 2:49 PM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Non-verbal cues: Lots of eye contact and smiling (bonus "aha, I know what's going on here" points for regularly making eye contact and smiling at me while a third party is talking). Leaning toward me while I'm speaking. Very "open" facial and physical expressions in general.

Verbal cues: frequent compliments (particularly regarding my sense of humor or clothes). Frequent use of inside jokes, or other "us vs. them" tactics (by which I don't necessarily mean being aggressive or negative about other people, but rather a conversational tactic that creates a sort of "we're in this together, just you and me" mood). Oh, and any reference to my "lucky" boyfriend is a dead giveaway.
posted by scody at 4:17 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

When it's someone I actually have a chance of getting with, I can tell they're attracted to me to when they kiss me back, basically.

This. I basically notice someone's attracted to me when I make a move and they respond, or when they make a move. Otherwise, I really can't tell.
posted by nat at 9:34 AM on June 6, 2009

There's a kind of sharpened focus you can feel, that energy directed straight at you. You know that line in Before Sunrise where Celine says something about how she likes feeling Jesse's eyes on her when she looks away? Yeah, that. It goes a bit into what people above say with the shiny focus of the eyes, or the way you suddenly feel brilliant and charming and arresting because of how you're being received, and how they hang on your every word as if you're the most interesting thing to walk into the room. Some of that, yeah, and sometimes even subtler than all of that. My (totally awkward with girls, I'll admit) now-fiance, when he tried to make his first move of sorts, was in retrospect hilarious. I could feel his eyes burning holes straight through to the back of my head like laserbeams, his gaze was so intense. I can laugh about it now.

And I'm all for the upfront-without-being-skeezy compliment, because as a tomboy, it's the only way I know for certain. When I got my car inspected one year, the guy inspecting it let me know it had passed by saying "See ya next year. Bye bye, gorgeous." A couple times when picking up packages at the post office similar sorts of wow-appreciative but not-trying-to-get-with-me comments were made. Stuff like that--it makes my day.
posted by ifjuly at 1:04 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Most recently I didn't know it until he showed up on my doorstep with a dozen roses. I hadn't realized that the dinner invitation was a sign. Or that he walked around my neighborhood with me for hours because he was interested in me, and not, you know, the neighborhood.

So, I'm pretty slow on the uptake. (PS I really knew it when he got home to Europe and called me from his apartment to tell me he misses me. I see him again in 10 days!)
posted by bilabial at 7:49 PM on June 7, 2009

« Older Non-breaking 2-em dash   |   Help me make sense of excel and VB Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.