Psychology: Posts

January Author of the Month: Viren Swami

Viren Swami, author of Attraction Explained, is our Routledge Psychology Author of the Month for January! Read our exclusive interview and learn more about his fantastic new book!

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. In Attraction Explained, psychologist Viren Swami debunks these myths and draws on cutting-edge research to provide a ground-breaking and evidence-based account of relationship formation.

Why did you decide to write this book?
Some time ago, I found myself single again (shock, horror!) and decided to get back into the world of dating. One thing that struck me very early on in my forays was that everyone had an opinion about “what worked” in terms of dating, but all too often those opinions were based on anecdotes, assumptions about human behaviour I knew to be wrong, or – worse – pure misogyny. As a psychologist who has studied attraction, I felt certain that science could offer a better understanding of romantic attraction than all the self-help experts, pick-up artists, and agony aunts in the world. And I was right! So I decided to bring together everything that scientists know about how we form relationships and debunk some of the myths of attraction. For the record, I’m getting married later this year.

What’s the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
That there are no “laws of attraction”, no guarantees of success in dating, no fool-proof methods or strategies for getting someone to date you, let alone jump in bed with you. Human psychology is too complex to reduce to rules or laws of attraction, but that’s not the same as saying that there’s nothing to be gained from understanding the processes involved in attraction. Understanding the science of attraction can’t guarantee you a date tonight, but it can point the way towards forming mutually benefiting relationships with other people.

Is there anything you’d like to highlight about this topic or your book in particular?
If there’s one thing that really bugs me, it’s the way pick-up artists have misappropriated scientific language to perpetuate their brand of misogyny and propagate practices that encourage the objectification, subjugation, and ill-treatment of women. There is simply no real evidence to suggest that the techniques sold by pick-up artists can guarantee dating success. But there is a deeper rot with pick-up artistry: even if you buy into stereotypes of behaviour and myths of human behaviour, it’s difficult to get away from the feeling that, as a community, pick-up artists are morally and ethically bankrupt. They use pseudo-science to sell an ideology about women, an approach to women that demeans and dehumanises. And that simply doesn't bode well for healthy relationships.

What’s a common misconception about this topic that you’d like to clear up?
Opposites do not attract. The idea that opposites attract has to be one of the most common myths of attraction if not all of psychology. But it turns out that, when it comes to the formation of relationships, opposites very rarely attract. In fact, the evidence from decades of scientific research indicates that there’s a much greater tendency for similar people to be attracted to one another. In fact, some psychologists even think that the similarity effect is one of the best generalisations in all of the behavioural sciences.

Featured Book

  • Attraction Explained

    The science of how we form relationships

    By Viren Swami

    How much does appearance matter in the formation of romantic relationships? Do nice guys always finish last? Does playing hard-to-get ever work? What really makes for a good chat-up line? When it comes to relationships, there’s no shortage of advice from self-help ‘experts’, pick-up…

    Paperback – 2016-01-12

Viren Swami is Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University. His research focuses on the psychology of human appearance and body image and, separately, the psychology of conspiracy theories. He was previously director of Plug In Your Brain, a public engagement initiative aimed at promoting public understanding of psychology.

In the Press

The Naked Scientists, (February, 2016)
BBC Radio Cambridge Drive, (February,2016)
Saturday Live, BBC Radio 4 (February, 2016)
The Independent(January, 2016)

Save 20% on Attraction Explained

Receive a 20% discount* on Attraction Explained! Simply enter promotional code ATT16 when ordering online at

*  Discount is only available on print books purchased from, and cannot be combined with any other offer or discount. Valid until the 31st March 2016.

* Please note:  the giveaway will only be open for entries starting midnight on Monday, January 11 through midnight on Sunday, January 31.