How attractive a person is to you may be related to how your immune system perceives them
06/12/2018 // Carol Anderson // Views

When going out on dates or meeting people, our perception of them often depends on how we see them physically. Are they good looking? Do they smell good? Are they dressed decently? Does their breath smell nice – the questions just go on. However, a recent study suggests that there is another part of our bodies that determine whether we connect with another person or not.

About ten years ago, evolutionary psychologists hinted that the human body evolved and was able to develop the first line of defense against illnesses called the behavioral immune system. Activating this immune system is said to affect how we perceive a person regardless whether the judgment is wrong or right.

Essentially, this enables our subconscious to identify if a person is a threat to our health by looking out for warning signs such as coughing, sneezing, or other symptoms of a possible disease. Due to the activation of the behavioral immune system, our desire to become close to a person dies down to protect us from being sick.

To prove this theory and see how it affects our dating lives, Dr. Natsumi Sawada, a psychologist from McGill University conducted a case study, which involved several hundred participants aged between 18 and 35, all of whom were single and heterosexual. Sawada and her colleagues ran three sets of tests, the first being through a questionnaire. The participants’ “perceived vulnerability to disease” was measured to see how much each of them are conscious about germs and/or diseases.

For the second test, the subjects were asked to take part either in a 20-minute conversation with an attractive person, join a three-minute speed date, or rate a couple of online dating profiles which were specifically made for the study. Soon after the events, they gave ratings on how attractive, dateable, and friendly or withdrawn their potential partners were. (Related: New study – You can literally spice up your love life with spices.)


The ratings showed that those who were reported germ-and disease-conscious during the initial test were the ones who received a low rating and were described less friendly. It also appeared that germaphobes felt less attracted or interested towards their partners than those who weren’t as conscious.

The researchers divided the participants into two groups for the third test. The first half watched a video called “Top 10 Revolting Hygiene Facts,” while the other half watched a video about words with no English equivalents. After the videos, they were then placed in another speed-dating game. Those who watched the gross-out video were reported to be less interested in any romantic connection.

“We found that when the behavioral immune system was activated, it seemed to put brakes on our drive to connect with our peers socially,” Sawada explained. “The results suggest that, beyond how we consciously or unconsciously think and feel about each other, there are additional factors that we may not be consciously aware of – such as a fear of disease – that may influence how we connect with other.”

The study goes to show that between finding a partner and the need to protect our health from potentially harmful threats, our body will always choose to steer clear of diseases. Finding love now seemed more complicated than we originally thought it would be.

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