2nd Edition

Attraction Explained The science of how we form relationships

By Viren Swami Copyright 2021
    376 Pages
    by Routledge

    376 Pages
    by Routledge

    When it comes to relationships, there’s no shortage of advice from self-help ‘experts’, pick-up artists, and glossy magazines. But modern-day myths of attraction often have no basis in fact or – worse – are rooted in little more than misogyny. Based on science rather than self-help clichés, psychologist Viren Swami debunks these myths and draws on cutting-edge research to provide a ground-breaking and evidence-based account of relationship formation.

    At the core of this book is a very simple idea: there are no ‘laws of attraction’, no fool-proof methods or strategies for getting someone to date you. But this isn’t to say that there’s nothing to be gained from studying attraction. Based on science rather than self-help clichés, Attraction Explained looks at how factors such as geography, physical appearance, reciprocity, and similarity affect who we fall for and why.

    With updated statistics, this second edition also includes new content on online dating, queer relationships, racism in dating, shyness, and individual differences. It remains an engaging and accessible introduction to attraction relationship formation for professionals, students, and general readers.

    Preface to the Second Edition

    1. Cupid’s Arrow. Or, a brief history of attraction theories, why we need a science of relationship formation, and what this book is all about
    2. Getting up close and personal. Or, why geography matters, how the Internet is (and isn’t) changing how we form relationships, and a beauty-map of London 
    3. Appearance matters. Or, how we judge books by their covers, how men aren’t from Mars and women aren’t from Venus, and why what is beautiful is good 
    4. Appearance matters, part II. Or, how other things matter too, why nice guys don’t always finish last, and how love is sometimes blind 
    5. Liking those who like us. Or how I like you because you like me, thirty-six questions that may (or may not) change your life, and why playing hard-to-get is… hard 
    6. Birds of feather. Or why we like people who are similar to ourselves, how we match on attitudes (and other traits), and why opposites sometimes attract 
    7. The end of the beginning. Or, why life outside the lab makes fools of all of us and, to conclude, some life-changing advice


    Viren Swami is Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK and Perdana University in Malaysia. He is an international expert on attraction and body image and has written and edited several books on these topics.


    ‘This is a much needed and timely book, covering everything you need to know about the science of relationship formation. It is beautifully written and scrupulously referenced. There is serious science in the study of how we form relationships and this book covers the ground superbly. It remains unputdownable.’

    Prof. Adrian Furnham, Professor of Psychology, broadcaster, and author

    ‘I trusted this author at once because, unlike the psychobabblers, he says from the start that there are no "laws" of attraction and no fool-proof methods for getting someone to date you, let alone jump into bed with you. That isn’t to say there’s nothing to be gained from studying the processes involved in what draws us together. It’s just a lot trickier than most self-help books would suggest. But with precision and no small wit – I found myself frequently laughing out loud – he explores the four key factors that shape the formation of most relationships: proximity, appearance, reciprocity and similarity. As he shows, studying attraction or relationships scientifically, far from destroying the magic and mystery of it all, can actually be helpful, whether you aspire to be lover or friend. He also satisfyingly nails my biggest bête noire: that "treat ’em mean" is any sort of relationship advice and even more satisfyingly thrashes some of the so-called "experts" I abhor and think are downright dangerous in the "advice" they give. A great book. I’d buy it just for the laughs. But I’d recommend it – and do – to the many people who write to me as an agony aunt.’

    Suzie Hayman, agony aunt, relationship counsellor, broadcaster, and author

    'This book provides a thoroughly compelling journey of over a century’s worth of research on the how, what, and why of human relationships and attraction. Swami’s exploration of key theories, stand-out studies, and new and exciting behavioural insights is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the science behind how we form relationships. Once you pick it up, you’ll struggle to put it down.'

    Dr Daragh McDermott, Co-Editor-in-Chief of Psychology and Sexuality

    'On the whole, the book makes interesting reading, and offers numerous subtle intuitions into relationship formation. In continuity with his own previous analyses and reflections on related themes, the author arrives at a wise conclusion that no single factor can fully explain how and why two people enter into short-term or lasting relationships in the busy crossroads of life. Complex and mysterious as they are, human beings behave in a manner that evades every attempt to circumscribe it within predictive framework.'

    – Prof. Sahayadas Fernando, Marriage, Families & Spirituality, Volume 27