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2 August 2014
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You are here: BBC Science > Human Body & Mind > Emotions and Instincts > Science of Love

What Makes You Fancy Someone?

Appearance could be another indicator of the quality of a person's genes. Research suggests that there are certain things we all look for - even if we don't know it.

Perfect symmetry

An animated version of a woman's face

It is thought that asymmetrical features are a sign of underlying genetic problems. Numerous studies in humans have shown that men in particular go for women with symmetrical faces.

The preference in women for symmetry is not quite so pronounced. Women are also looking for a man's ability to offer food and protection. This might not be indicated in their genes, but in their rank and status, for example.

The hour-glass figure

Two women looking at pictures of Marilyn Monroe

Studies have shown that men prefer women with a waist to hip ratio of 0.7. You can calculate your own using this formula:

Waist Measurement Hip Measurement = Ratio.

This seems to apply whatever the woman's overall weight. A group of researchers even compared this ratio with the average ratio of Miss America winners over the years. It was exactly the same. This ratio would seem to make sense as an indicator of a woman's reproductive health. When women age their waist tends to become less pronounced as they put on fat around the stomach. This coincides with them becoming less fertile.

Learn to Love yourself

Have you noticed how many married couples look quite similar? Studies have shown that more than anything we prefer somebody who looks just like we do. From a batch of individual photographs people can spot who are the couples with unnerving reliability.

Try our match-making quiz and give it a go!

Research has uncovered that there is a correlation in couples between their:

  • Lung volumes
  • Middle finger lengths
  • Ear lobe lengths
  • Overall ear size
  • Neck and wrist circumferences
  • Metabolic rates

Mummy's boys and Daddy's girls?

The latest studies indicate that what people really, really want is a mate that looks like their parents. Women are after a man who is like their father and men want to be able to see their own mother in the woman of their dreams.

At the University of St Andrews in Scotland, cognitive psychologist David Perrett studies what makes faces attractive. He has developed a computerised morphing system that can endlessly adjust faces to suit his needs.

A paper chain of a family cut out

Students in his experiments are left to decide which face they fancy the most. Perrett has taken images of students' own faces and morphed them into the opposite sex. Of all the faces on offer, this seems to be the face that subject will always prefer. They can't recognize it as their own, they just know they like it.

Perrett suggests that we find our own faces attractive because they remind us of the faces we looked at constantly in our early childhood years - Mum and Dad. Even the pheromone studies are now showing a preference for our parents' characteristics.

Examine your ability to read faces and to find your perfect mate by taking our face perception test, developed by Professor David Perrett.

Will it last?

Unfortunately there's no way of telling for certain if a relationship will last. But there might be some clues in your partner's family!

In studies of behavioral genetics it has been shown that a person's tendency to divorce is written in their genes. When scientists studied identical twins, they found that whatever their degree of marriage success was, they shared it with their sibling. Men who went through multiple marriages were highly likely to have a twin brother who did the same.

The numbers game

Perhaps the best indication as to whether your love will last come from statistical studies. Researchers have come up with several predictors for success. This is based on how you met and when, how you resolve conflict and how similar you and your expectations are.


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