Waisman’s four steps are an elaboration on the classic sociobiological theory of attraction. They inform us as to exactly what we are looking for in a way that fuses sociobiological theory with modern dating. The four attractions are physical, status, emotion, and logic. It is a sequence you must pass through for a deep and fulfilling relationship, although we know many that only satisfied two or three factors in their own relationships.
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To delve more deeply into the instinctual markers of attraction, researcher Eric Waisman put forth a proposal of four specific components of attraction that shed some light on the sociobiological theory of attraction.
They are not hard rules, but rather general features people tend to look for in a partner, which happen to highly relate to biological drives. In the past, they represented a mate that was going to help you bear your children and protect them effectively. Articulating our subconscious desires is helpful in understanding why we are drawn to some people and even how we can improve our own attractiveness to the opposite (or same) sex. So, there is nothing we can do about our innate biological preferences, but we can gain insight into them and work with them.
Waisman’s four types of attraction are:
Interestingly, the order of those is also the chronological flow that must be followed for attraction to occur. This means each step is necessary for the next level of attraction to occur and to ultimately lead you into a relationship. When you’ve hit the fourth attraction factor, logic, it means you are compatible in all the preceding ways, and after the honeymoon dust settles, you will still be able to stand being around each other.
In a nutshell, here’s how Waisman’s attraction flow works:
You must first be physically healthy for anyone to take notice →
Next, you must be capable of providing what is biologically expected of your gender →
Next, you must be emotionally attractive and have romantic chemistry to feel lasting attachment →
Finally, a relationship can form if you share similar values, goals, and worldviews.
Once again, you don’t have to look far to see the accuracy of these attraction types. They mirror the actual dating process almost exactly. If you spot someone at a bar or club, well, you wouldn’t spot them if you didn’t think they were physically attractive. Once you began talking to them, you’d feel more attracted to them if they had more power and status versus a career as a burger flipper.
After you’d gone out with them a couple of times, their dimples and physical attractiveness wouldn’t be enough to sustain a relationship; you’d need to feel emotional bonding to them. But even all those prerequisites wouldn’t be enough unless you had similar values and conceptions of how you wanted to live; if someone wanted to move to Alaska to hunt whales and your favorite movie was Free Willy, it might not work out.
Let’s take a deeper dive into each part of the process. Step one is health.
When you meet someone, you first notice their physical appearance and attractiveness. At the very least, you notice if you find them physically unattractive or repulsive. More important, you notice if you are, or could be, sexually attracted to them. If you can’t see them in that light, at least potentially, then the opportunity for attraction stops right there. The next levels don’t even come into play because there would seemingly be no end goal.
It’s why we groom ourselves, dress nicely, and go to the gym. We want to appear sexually viable, and we understand that shallow first impressions do indeed matter.
Of course, this is the origin of the so-called friend zone. Someone may check the boxes on the other types of attraction, but they aren’t a sexually viable person, so there’s really no amount of emotional support that can overcome that and they are generally doomed to friend status in perpetuity.
We are drawn to people we find physically attractive—not a radical idea. If you’d like to have sex with them or can imagine having sex with them, you’ve passed the first level of attraction.
It sounds shallow, and it might be, but it’s how real-world attraction functions. It’s only in romantic comedies that the hero ends up with the dumpy-looking best friend who has their best interests at heart! You can either play the game to win or decide to opt out and continually lose.
Most things we do to attract others target this attraction point because it’s what people’s first impression. Therefore, hitting the gym, making over your wardrobe, getting regular haircuts, trimming your nails, shaving occasionally, applying make-up, wearing high-heeled shoes—all help, no matter how much you want to believe otherwise.
If you don’t quite like the idea of physical attractiveness playing such a big role (after all, not everyone is attractive, right? Certainly average and below average people have been hooking up happily since the dawn of time), then consider that health encompasses a little more than just appearances. If you are unremarkable in appearance but nevertheless seem fit, alive, and full of joy and vitality, that is attractive. A sulky underwear model with a bad attitude is only going to be attractive for point three of a second, while someone who is enthusiastic, bright, lively, and full of energy will likely be more appealing even if they’re solidly average in appearance.
This is a clear, easy-to-read signpost for what we can work on. First impressions are made in a split second, so focusing your efforts on everything visible during that initial impression should be your first priority in becoming more attractive. If you understood that it was a true gatekeeper for you, how would you improve or change your appearance?
How viable of a mate would you appear to be if someone were basing their attraction to you on only this factor?
Step two: Is their status great enough for you?
This is commonly known as the resume phase—how do they look on paper? Being brutally frank, this is the phase that causes us to ask, “Are they beneath me? Will they be worth my time? Do they check the boxes that I am looking for?” Being less brutal: “Is this person like me? Do we fit in the same world? Are we in one another’s league?”
After you’re physically attracted to someone, the next step is to think about how eligible that person is and whether they will be able to provide for you in the way that you expect their gender to. No one wants their partner to be dead weight or a leech, and most people would like their partner to have the means to do the kinds of things they want to do. This isn’t just about money, but money is certainly a large part of the equation. Status hearkens back to the sociobiological theory of women wanting support and safety and men seeking overall fertility.
The stereotypical gold digger would skip right to this attraction point, as would the stereotypical man looking for a trophy wife. The first two attraction points are the more superficial filters, and many a relationship has sustained itself on these for short periods of time. However, they may or may not be the most fulfilling or deep relationships.
Even though it’s clearly important because none of us want to live in a shoebox, we lie to ourselves and refuse to give importance to this because we believe it instantly brands us as shallow and materialistic. But does it?
Evolutionarily speaking, no. Status began with wanting the leader of the pack, village, or tribe to ensure you would be protected and safe. You don’t even have to come up with an analogy for that description to fit into the modern day.
Traditional gender roles play strong here. A man with status has power, money, and prestige. A woman with status has beauty, fertility, and nurturing instincts. It’s a large part of the emotional bond that we like to deny, but evidence is available any time you venture into public. If there is a mismatch in physical attractiveness, often it’s easy to see exactly why someone is with someone else.
The attraction of status is an evolutionary safeguard to survival.
The third factor essentially asks the following question: wait, do I actually like this person?
Do you have interpersonal chemistry, emotional attraction, and feelings of being drawn to them? Do you miss them when they aren’t present? Do you share their sense of humor or at least appreciate their humor?
This is where romantic love finally comes into play—well, actually, scratch that. This is just where getting along comes into play. It might be surprising to see the notion of romantic love being demoted so far, but it’s hard to deny that other factors take precedent, at least chronologically, before you can actually consider romantic love.
Look at the previous factors of health and status as the windows and windshield of a car. You can’t drive the car without those, so you need to fulfill the basic needs first before you can hit the highway, so to speak. It’s something we’d all like to imagine is our top priority when we’re looking at a mate, but that’s a lie that evolution likes to obscure with other types of attraction.
Romeo and Juliet certainly had emotional attraction, but look what happened to them. You can probably think of other examples where a couple seemed destined for each other but other factors tore them apart.
This naturally begs the question, if we’re not marrying for love, what are we marrying for? It’s time to expand the notion of love because it comprises many things that romantic comedy movies like to ignore.
Many of us allow feelings of romantic love and infatuation to take charge, but contrary to love songs, love is not all you need. There still remains the question of how truly compatible you are—not in personality, but in terms of worldview and values.
That’s what the fourth stage is about: logic. You like (and maybe even love) each other, you get along well, you’re physically attracted to each other, and you have a healthy financial prognosis.
But those are all still short-term concerns. What about thinking long term? Surely those aren’t enough to sustain a marriage, are they?
It makes you ask questions such as:
• Can this relationship go the distance?
• Do we have the same life goals?
• Do we both want children?
• Do we share similar values?
• Will we be happy in five years?
• And perhaps most important, can I live with the other person’s flaws or are they deal-breakers?
The logic phase questions whether it makes sense from a rational perspective to have a relationship with the other person.
The most common example of a relationship fizzling out because of logic is a vacation fling. Perhaps you’ve connected with another person, and everything seems incredibly in sync . . . but you’ve only spent forty-eight hours together and you live on opposite sides of the world. That’s where logic steps in and sorts things out.
As you can see, the first two factors are more superficial and short-sighted, while the latter two factors are more introspective and indicative of a relationship’s actual success.
Now visualize how many couples you know who have created relationships that depend solely on the first two (or three) attraction factors and have completely ignored the latter factors. It’s no surprise that some couples fight like cats and dogs and are doomed to failure—they didn’t align the types of attraction that matter long term.
Visualize a couple where the male wants children but the female does not. What does that mean for the long-term potential of that relationship, no matter how physically attracted they are to each other?
Logical attraction focuses primarily on our morals, values, and what is important to us in the world.
For example, do you want to get married? Do you want to have children after you get married? Do you have the same goals as far as career advancement and financial security are concerned? Do you want to live in Chicago forever or move around Asia for years at a time? Do you share the same religion?
Logic deals with deal-breakers.
We look at the people we can potentially date and sort them into yes and no piles based on their values. It’s as simple as imagining whether a risk-averse corporate lawyer could ever truly be happy with a country-hopping nomadic soap salesman. Could they be attracted to each other?
This logical analysis is very linear. You look at core similarities and you project from there. The more you can imagine the possibility of a relationship, the more attractive the other person becomes.
The four attractions clearly spell out the steps you need to take to become attractive, and they prompt you to anticipate major issues that can become problems so that you can save your valuable time. Chances are, if you are skipping a step, you aren’t an exception to the rule. You just haven’t seen where the dust will settle.
Which among these four steps do you lack, and which are strengths you can capitalize on? Where in the process do you continually get stuck? These are the questions you can start to answer for yourself with your newfound knowledge.