There Is a Main Non-Physical Trait Attracting Other People
Attraction — we know it when we feel it. And it is not all about looks.
If you were to name the top five people you love to spend time with, it is unlikely your list reflects merely the five most physically attractive people you know.
We all have people in our lives that make us feel happy; people we love to be around.
On the flip side, there are people we try to avoid, because they make us feel stressed and emotionally drained. What accounts for the difference? Perhaps no surprise, it has nothing to do with the way they look.
Defining Affection, Affiliation, and Affective Presence
A major factor in our attraction to others is the way they make us feel.
We are drawn to people who make us feel happy, hopeful, and optimistic, and when they are gone, we want to see them again. Research reveals how this works.
Noah Eisenkraft and Hillary Anger Elfenbein, in a piece entitled "The Way You Make Me Feel" (from 2010) examined the manner in which people affect the way others feel.
Examining data from 48 groups, they found evidence to suggest that there are consistent individual differences in the emotions people feel, known as trait affect, as well as in the emotions people elicit in other people, known as trait affective presence.
After controlling for emotional contagion, they report that the different emotions people feel is due to trait affect and trait affective presence.
They note that positive affective presence was linked with greater "network centrality" — reflected in the number of individuals who listed the participant as a "close friend," and negative affective presence was linked with greater extraversion, but lower agreeableness.
Eisenkraft and Elfenbein note that their results illustrate "partner effects" within social interaction, described as "the behavior and feelings that one elicits in others and, consequently, the footprint that one leaves behind."
Noting that affective presence goes beyond emotional contagion, they recognize that the emotion elicited is not just about catching the emotions others are experiencing.
They suggest mechanisms of transmission may include differences in expressive style — non-verbal cues for example, as well as patterns of interpersonal behavioral — such as acts of warmth or dominance.
Eisenkraft and Elfenbein opined that their evidence for trait affective presence was especially strong due to the fact that they examined how people felt when they were with close acquaintances in widely differing settings, as opposed to how the participants interacted with strangers.
The impact of affective presence on strangers was tested by subsequent research.
Explaining How Affective Presence Sparks Romantic Interest
Raul Berrios et al. in a study entitled "Why Do You Make Us Feel Good?" ( in 2015) examined how affective presence affects romantic interest. They had forty people participate in a speed-dating event where they "dated" six or seven partners of the opposite sex.
Using a social relations model analysis, they confirmed that participants were more likely to want to see dates again when the dates had greater positive affective presence.
Thus, creating positive emotions appears to promote romantic attraction.
Among other conclusions, Berrios et al. found that regarding emotional disposition and skills, people who work to improve their own emotions and are tuned in to the emotions of others were more likely to elicit positive emotions in other people.
Interestingly, they found that people who create positive emotions in others do not necessarily experience positive emotions themselves.
Regarding personality traits, they found that agreeableness and extraversion were the two traits linked with positive affective presence. They note that agreeable people are engaging and considerate, and thus would be expected to elicit positive emotional responses in others.
The link between extraversion and positive affective presence, however, was unexpected, given that the previous research by Eisenkraft and Elfenbein (2010) found extraversion to be linked with negative affective presence.
Berrios et al. suggest that perhaps the difference has to do with the different types of interpersonal interactions in the two studies.
Their speed-dating event might have elicited positive emotion in the extraverts, which might have prompted reciprocal positive emotions from interaction partners.
The Way You Make Me Feel
Apparently, attraction involves not only how others look, but the way they make us feel.
In terms of how we can bond with others, agreeableness and emotional regulation prompt positive emotions, and predict relational success.
This article was first published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 4,000 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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