Humans are social animals whose well-being is shaped by the ability to attract and connect with one another, often through brief interactions. In addition to physical features, a choreography of movements, physical reactions and subtle expressions may help promote attraction. Here, we measured the physiological dynamics between pairs of participants during real-life dating interactions outside the laboratory. Participants wore eye-tracking glasses with embedded cameras and devices to measure physiological signals including heart rate and skin conductance. We found that overt signals such as smiles, laughter, eye gaze or the mimicry of those signals were not significantly associated with attraction. Instead, attraction was predicted by synchrony in heart rate and skin conductance between partners, which are covert, unconscious and difficult to regulate. Our findings suggest that interacting partners’ attraction increases and decreases as their subconscious arousal levels rise and fall in synchrony.
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The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available at DataverseNL: https://dataverse.nl/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.34894/RFUGGD.
The codes generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available at DataverseNL: https://dataverse.nl/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.34894/RFUGGD.
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The authors thank M. Rojek-Giffin for helpful feedback and W. Boekel for proof-reading the scripts and helping with the control analysis scripts, as well as T. Wilderjans and J. Folz for statistical advice. Research was supported by the Netherlands Science Foundation (016.VIDI.185.036) to M.E.K., Talent Grant (no. 406-15-026) from Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO) to M.E.K. and E.P. and the European Research Council (ERC) (Starting Grant #802979) to M.E.K.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Human Behaviour thanks Eli Finkel, Sebastian Wallot and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Supplementary Figs. S1–S3, Tables S1–S20 and quantification of synchrony.
Video 1. An example of measures. The video shows a non-verbal interaction where participants were instructed not to talk (825–945 s). The female’s and male’s Z-scored SC and HR are shown in the top two rows. In four rows below, selection of measured expressions is depicted (touch face, head shake, smile and laugh). In addition, gaze fixations were collected (not depicted). Notice the contagious spread of emotional information; at 886 s, the female smiles and the male partner reciprocates with a smile back. During this moment, we observe an increase in the female’s and male’s SC and HR. Again, at 903 s, the female laughs; in response, the male smiles, and we again observe synchrony in HR and SC (highlighted by orange cursor). Although non-verbal, during this 2 min interaction, the couple’s physiological synchrony and attraction increased.
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Prochazkova, E., Sjak-Shie, E., Behrens, F. et al. Physiological synchrony is associated with attraction in a blind date setting. Nat Hum Behav 6, 269–278 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01197-3
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