Wouldn't it be great if there really was such a thing as a love potion? Take a few sips, and magically, potential dates appear everywhere. Without a true love potion, we're resigned to attracting future mates with nothing but our own charming personalities—and perhaps a few pointers from self-help books, late-night infomercials, and reality TV shows.

Can those things even work? What makes one person fall for another? And can we change ourselves to alter the number of people who are attracted to us? According to experts, attraction is full sensory experience. It's not just enough to look or talk a certain way; to attract a potential mate, you must electrify all five senses. Here are some of the clues that have been identified by researchers.


Perhaps the most obvious component of attraction, being visually attracted to someone involves more than just their appearance. A UCLA study revealed that when people are already in loving, committed relationships, they find attractive members of the opposite sex less appealing than those who are not in relationships. Study subjects who had recently thought about their partners were also less likely to remember attractive physical characteristics of other people.

Visual cues can be helpful during flirtation as well. According to a classic study by psychologist and body language expert Albert Mehrabian, 55 percent of our impression of another person is formed by their body language. Certain movements are perceived favorably by others. Mirroring, or subtly mimicking the other person's gestures, is an effective way to make people feel that they can trust you.


Mehrabian's study further showed that 38 percent of our impressions come from the tone, speed, and inflection of the other person's voice. What they're actually saying accounts for only 7 percent. Laughing or giggling is often another way of conveying positive emotions toward another person. Two biologists from Binghamton University who published a study on laughter found that we often laugh at mundane statements that are not funny. Laughter is a social tool that evolved before humans could speak, they speculate, so even modern humans feel bonded by laughter.

Perhaps our attraction to someone with a pleasant voice is connected to their physical appearance, as well. A study by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, found that people who were rated to have "attractive" voices were also more likely to be physically good-looking.


Although the allure of scent is not quite as dramatic as cologne and deodorant commercials would like you to believe, chemicals known as pheromones play a role in attraction. A study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology showed that the scent of pheromones that are given off by an ovulating woman (when she is typically most fertile) is more attractive to men. Women, however, look for a different type of scent. A study by the University of Bern in Switzerland found that women who smelled men's unwashed T-shirts preferred the odor of men who had immune systems that were different from their own, suggesting that women favor a mate who is biologically dissimilar enough to have healthy children.

Although these scents cannot be controlled, other exterior odors can trigger more intimacy. Research by the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago found that the combination of lavender and pumpkin pie had the greatest impact on men's sexual arousal. The combos of doughnut/black licorice and pumpkin pie/doughnut also had an evident effect.


When flirting, women are likely to tilt their heads in a way that reveals their neck, an erogenous zone that is highly sensitive to touch, according to studies on courtship conducted by psychologist Monica Moore, of Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition, she found that flirtatious women would "accidentally" brush up against a man they were interested in or gently tap his forearm.

Just these acts of flirtation and touching can make someone appear more attractive. A famous study from 1994, known as the "footsie study," by Daniel Wegner found that participants were more attracted to a stranger who played footsie with them under the table. When both parties knew why the stranger was playing footsie, however, the effect was diminished.


Some scientists speculate that taste is part of the reason we kiss. Remember those pheromones? Kissing is a way of "tasting" the other person's pheromones to determine if they are sexually compatible, according to A.G. Singer's study, A Chemistry of Mammalian Pheromones.

In addition, preferring the same taste, literally, of foods can make you feel a closer bond with another person. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that when people who were given a sample of ice cream compared likes and dislikes afterward, the tasters who enjoyed the sample were more likely to say they could trust the recommendations of the others who were fond of it, but those who disliked the ice cream didn't think others who also disliked it could give good recommendations.