How to be More Attractive, According to Science

“He makes me laugh,” is one of the reasons women often say they find their mate attractive. A sense of humor in a man has been scientifically proven to draw the attention of women. “Studies have found that both women and men list ‘a sense of humor’ as a highly desirable trait in a potential romantic partner,” Dr. Beall says. “But other studies have found that only women actually rate a funnier man as more desirable—women’s desirability was less affected by how funny they actually were.” This means women want men who make them laugh, but men want women to laugh at their jokes. “Some have argued that women’s particularly pronounced attraction to funnier men is deeply rooted in our evolutionary past,” Dr. Beall says. “The production of humor requires heritable cognitive skills such as intelligence and creativity, so mating with a funnier person may provide direct genetic benefits to potential offspring.” Because women are evolutionarily the primary caregivers for youngsters, they may be particularly concerned with having kids with good genes. Laughing at these dark jokes may mean you’re a genius.


Ladies, think that smoky voice sounds sexy? You might want to think again. Research from the U.K. has found that a higher-pitched voice in women is more attractive to men—and vice versa, that a lower-pitched voice in men is more attractive to women. “Past work suggests a higher voice pitch is perceived as coming from someone who is physically smaller in terms of body size,” Dr. Beall says. “Gender dimorphic—in other words, typically feminine—qualities such as these have been shown to increase men’s sexual attraction to women.” (Need to know how to be more articulate? Try these 8 must-follow tricks.) The opposite would hold true for women, who evolutionarily seek out male mates who are larger in size, signaled by a low voice. But in the U.K. study, breathiness in men as well as in women was considered attractive, which the authors say may be because it softened the aggressiveness associated with a large body size. Find out the secrets matchmakers won’t tell you for free.


Women might think they appear more attractive if they keep their partner guessing as to how they really feel—and some research does support this (one study from China found that playing hard to get kept men’s interest only after they had chosen a prospective partner). But a more recent study from Germany suggests that people are more likely to rate others as attractive if they can easily understand the emotions they’re displaying. The reason for this is in the brain: How well the study participants could decode the other’s “neural vocabulary.” “Partners must understand and continuously update information about their partner’s current intentions and motivation, anticipate the other’s behavior, and adapt their own behavior accordingly,” study author Silke Anders, a neuroscientist at the University of Lübeck, told Time. “Understanding and personal attraction seem to depend on both the sender’s brain and the perceiver’s brain, and on how well they match.” A dating expert gives eight ways to meet and attract new people.


What are some associations we have with the color red? Passion, roses, heat, and…sex. For this very reason, science has shown that wearing red is one way how to look more attractive. “This red-attractiveness link is partially explained by men’s perceptions of implied sexual receptivity among women wearing reddish garb,” Dr. Beall says. “In 2013, my colleagues and I even noted this effect among a small-scale society in Burkina Faso, West Africa, suggesting that men’s attraction to red is a cultural universal.” So no matter where you’re living, if you’re looking for love, red should be your go-to color. And you might even be doing this subconsciously—Dr. Beall says studies have shown women tend to wear red and pink when they are biologically more sexually receptive, like during ovulation. Read more about your brain on ovulation.


Much of the science of attraction is rooted in biology—and who we think would make a good mate to reproduce with. So, how to be more attractive is tapping into what the opposite sex (if you’re heterosexual) is looking for. Smiling in women was shown in a University of British Columbia study to be more attractive than other expressions; but the same didn’t hold true for men. “People typically associate expressions of happiness with femininity,” says Alec Beall, PhD, a UBC psychologist and one of the authors of the study. “This gender normative inconsistency could be responsible for the relative unattractiveness of male happiness.” Smiling makes women look friendly and “sexually receptive” (in other words, more interested in having sex). “Evolutionarily, men have been programmed to seek out women who will be receptive to their advances,” Dr. Beall says. Here are some science-backed reasons to smile more.