Attracted to personality but not looks

What Are the Different Types of Attraction? 37 Terms to Know

Attraction describes interest, desire, or affinity that’s emotional, romantic, sexual, physical, or aesthetic in nature.

Many people mislabel attraction as purely romantic. But many feelings qualify as attraction, from taking an interest in someone to admiring someone’s appearance to experiencing sexual feelings.

Attraction is a key part of how you connect to other people and build your support network, whatever form it takes.

Why does it matter?

Attraction can take many forms and it’s possible to experience more than one type simultaneously.

Learning about the nuanced and multifaceted nature of attraction helps us gain insight into our own feelings, as well as the boundaries we need to set to ensure those feelings are respected and understood.

Check out the following breakdown of the different types of attraction. We also explain different terms that show the subtle differences between varying types of attraction.

This type of attraction isn’t necessarily physical in nature and is rooted in a desire for connection because of someone’s heart, mind, or personality.


This describes the desire for a type of emotional relationship and emotional closeness that the terms “platonic” or “romantic” don’t feel like they accurately characterize.

It can also convey discomfort or de-identification with the word “romantic” as a primary descriptor or focal point for different types of attraction.


Attachment refers to a type of bond or connection that’s often necessary or present in committed or long-term relationships of any kind.

Attachment can be a factor in relationships with:

  • friends
  • children
  • parents
  • caregivers
  • family members
  • loved ones


This type of attraction isn’t necessarily physical in nature and is rooted in a desire for connection due to someone’s intelligence.


This is a deep or passionate feeling of connection or affection that often involves an element of emotional attachment.

The meaning of love and things associated with love can vary from person to person, relationship to relationship, and across cultures.


This describes feelings of deep desire, intense emotion, or strong enthusiasm.


This is the nonsexual or nonromantic desire to be in a relationship with someone. Friendships, for example, are often platonic.


This describes attraction toward those who require caretaking, such as a child, pet, or loved one.


This describes those who are generally well-liked by the majority. A person who’s socially attractive is typically also someone many people want to be around.


The desire for a strong, nonromantic relationship that often includes elements of emotional depth or intimacy.

It’s considered the nonromantic version of a crush.


Also known as a queerplatonic partner, zucchinis are people engaged in queerplatonic relationships.

Share on PinterestIllustration by Yaja’ Mulcare

This can describe a deep emotional interest or connection that isn’t purely physical or sexual in nature.


This describes people who experience romantic attraction.


A social force that presumes romantic relationships are more ideal or “the norm” for everyone, subsequently viewing this type of relationship as more valid than or superior to others.


Also known as “aro,” this identifier describes the spectrum of people who experience little to no romantic attraction or desire for a romantic relationship.


This describes those who experience romantic attraction to oneself.


This describes the experience of being romantically attracted to people of two or more genders.

It doesn’t indicate the specific genders someone is romantically attracted to, but the fact that the individual is romantically attracted to people of more than one gender.


The object of someone’s romantic attraction or the desire for a romantic relationship with someone.


On the aromantic spectrum, demiromantic describes those who only experience romantic attraction after developing an emotional connection.


On the aromantic spectrum, grayromantic describes someone who rarely experiences romantic attraction, or only experiences romantic attraction under particular circumstances.


This describes those who are romantically attracted to members of the “opposite” sex or gender.


This describes those who feel romantic attraction to members of the same sex or gender.


This describes someone who’s capable of experiencing romantic attraction to people of all gender identities.

Generally speaking, gender and sex don’t play a major role in governing romantic attraction for those who are panromantic.


This describes someone who experiences romantic attraction towards people of many, but not necessarily all, gender identities.

Share on PinterestIllustration by Yaja’ Mulcare

This attraction takes the form of the desire for intimately physical or sexual contact with someone.


This describes intense feelings of passion, desire, affection, or attraction toward someone.

Objective sexual

This type of attraction occurs when the majority of people consider someone sexually attractive, even if you personally don’t experience sexual attraction toward them.

Subjective sexual

This describes sexual feelings or the desire for sexual contact based on personal feelings and individual experiences that aren’t necessarily shared by the majority.

Subjective sexual attraction is often viewed as sexual chemistry that exists in a given relationship, connection, or interaction.

Share on PinterestIllustration by Yaja’ Mulcare

This describes the desire for touch or to receive touch — not necessarily in a romantic or sexual way. For example, this can include hugging or kissing a family member or petting a dog.


This term describes physical, sexual, romantic, or emotional closeness between people in personal relationships of any kind.

Objective physical

This type of attraction occurs when the majority of people consider someone physically attractive, even if you personally don’t feel attraction around their physical appearance.

Subjective physical

This type of physical desire or admiration involves personal feelings and individual experiences that aren’t the most people don’t necessarily share.

Subjective physical attraction is often observable as physical chemistry that exists in a given relationship, connection, or interaction.


Very similar to physical attraction, sensual attraction describes a desire to touch or receive touch that isn’t necessarily sexual in nature.

Share on PinterestIllustration by Yaja’ Mulcare

Aesthetic attraction refers to the ability to admire someone’s appearance without the need or desire to have physical, sexual, or romantic contact with them.

You might find that elements of aesthetic attraction cross over into other types. For example, you may think the way a person dresses makes you feel romantic or sexual attraction, while you also find them aesthetically attractive.

Some people describe the distinction between aesthetic attraction and other types as a feeling similar to the experience of observing a beautiful painting or lush scenery.

Many people have had the experience of feeling fond of someone but having a hard time identifying the exact emotion. For example, they may wonder, “Am I attracted to them physically? Do I admire their personality or intelligence? Do I have the desire to be romantic or sexual with them?”

Attraction can be confusing and takes time to understand. Just remember: There’s no right way to experience attraction and one form isn’t better or more valid than another.

Expanding your understanding of attraction beyond romantic and sexual boundaries can help you navigate the various feelings that inform your interests, desires, boundaries, and relationships.

Mere Abrams is a researcher, writer, educator, consultant, and licensed clinical social worker who reaches a worldwide audience through public speaking, publications, social media (@meretheir), and gender therapy and support services practice Mere uses their personal experience and diverse professional background to support individuals exploring gender and help institutions, organizations, and businesses to increase gender literacy and identify opportunities to demonstrate gender inclusion in products, services, programs, projects, and content.

What if You Are Just Attracted to a Guy's Personality & Not His Looks?


... Image Source/Stockbyte/Getty Images

When you want to give a new guy a chance, it can be hard if he ticks all the boxes except physical attraction. Do looks really matter, or should personality be enough? Physical attraction, although not the most important thing, is needed in a romantic relationship. But just because you do not find him attractive immediately, it does not mean you won't later on.

Explore this article

  • Importance of Physical Attraction
  • Physical Attraction Can Develop
  • Could Lead to Hurt Feelings
  • Be Friends

1 Importance of Physical Attraction

In a romantic relationship, physical attraction is assumed, otherwise what you have is a friendship. In “A New Survey Sheds Light on ‘The 7 Year Itch’” on “The Huffington Post,” psychologist Vivian Diller mentions the importance of physical attraction in relationships. Romantic relationships are usually sparked by physical attraction; it is often what gets someone interested in getting to know another person. In the first seven years of a relationship, if physical attraction fades -- even with a strong emotional connection -- the relationship stops being satisfying, Diller asserts. So while you might want to make a relationship work without physical attraction, it simply might not be enough.

2 Physical Attraction Can Develop

While physical attraction is important in a relationship, just because it is not there at first does not mean it cannot grow later. Writing for YourTango, matchmaker and dating coach Julie Ferman notes that her female clients have grown physically attracted to someone over a period of time. Therefore, even if the initial physical attraction is not there, it can develop if you become attracted to his personality. The study “Personality Goes a Long Way: The Malleability of Opposite-Sex Physical Attractiveness,” published in “Personal Relationships” in 2007, found that desirable personality traits can make someone appear more physically attractive to others. The study also showed that negative personality traits made someone appear less physically attractive to a person.

3 Could Lead to Hurt Feelings

You may care about the guy, but if you don't feel a physical attraction, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment and could end up hurting him. Some couples stay together without physical attraction and remain satisfied with the companionship, acknowledges marriage and family therapist Stephen J. Betchen, in “The Role of Physical Attraction in Your Relationship” on "Psychology Today." However, Betchen warns that you could also end up being worse off if you choose to stay with a partner you are not physically attracted to. When dating a guy, he will expect that you are physically attracted to him. If he later finds out that you aren't, he may feel that he was being lead on and lied to.

4 Be Friends

Physical attraction is an essential part of a relationship, and starting one without it only makes it harder to maintain the relationship later, asserts Betchen. If you care about someone but do not find yourself attracted to his appearance, opt to have him as a friend in your life instead of a romantic interest. This can save you both pain and heartbreak in the future when you realize that something is missing.


  • 1 Psychology Today: The Role of Physical Attraction in Your Relationship
  • 2 Personal Relationships; Personality Goes a Long Way: The Malleability of Opposite-Sex Physical Attractiveness; Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., et. al.
  • 3 The Huffington Post: A New Survey Sheds Light on "The Seven Year Itch"
  • 4 YourTango: Untangling the Sticky Science of Dating and Physical Attraction

About the Author

Sarah Casimong is a Vancouver-based writer with a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She writes articles on relationships, entertainment and health. Her work can be found in the "Vancouver Observer", "Her Campus" and "Cave Magazine".

Related Articles

“Not my type”: why we like some faces and dislike others




Understanding the mechanisms that make people attractive in our eyes

Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

 In the "Question" section, Reminder answers readers' questions. You can send your question to [email protected] marked "I want to ask". 

In this issue we answer Denis's question:

Why do people like different faces? The same person seems attractive to someone, but not at all to someone. I mean the outer appeal.


Physical attractiveness is not an objective quality, but a reflection of our preferences, behind which there are many motives: from the neurochemical and biological mechanisms associated with choosing the optimal partner for procreation, to cultural stereotypes, social influence and, of course, personal experience. It is he who brings the final touch to our tastes and determines the subjective perception of beauty.


Evaluation of another person's appearance can mean different things. If we consider him/her to be cute, this may indicate:

  1. Attraction with a desire for a long-term relationship (creating offspring).
  2. Momentary sexual desire (not counting on a long relationship).
  3. Aesthetic attraction: we recognize the “objective” attractiveness of a person (“correct” facial features, compliance with common beauty standards), perhaps unconsciously admire him, but conclude that he / she is “not our type”.

This means that different people may find the same person attractive for different reasons. And our sympathies are determined by several mechanisms.

Biology and evolution

  • According to one of the popular theories, we unconsciously find attractive people with a healthy appearance . Those who have a symmetrical face (a sign of normal development during childhood and adolescence), clear and even skin, regular features and a "healthy" complexion. Evolution tells us that with such partners we are more likely to create viable offspring.
  • We are also attracted to people with an average appearance of - typical of the country or region where we live. For example, the most attractive lips seem to us those that, in shape and size, occupy an intermediate position between the plumpest and narrowest in our environment. The same applies to other parts of the face. If we put together the average features characteristic of representatives of a certain ethnic group, then from their point of view we get an “ideal” face. Faces that deviate only slightly from the “golden mean” will also be considered attractive. Why do we like average so much? Most likely, a person with this appearance looks like a carrier of a variety of genes, and genetic diversity increases the chances for the survival of offspring.
  • Hormones also drive our tastes . When it comes to heterosexual preferences, men are attracted to more feminine facial features, and women are attracted to more masculine ones. External signs of femininity (rounded corners, small lower jaw, large eyes, lack of hairline) usually indicate a fairly high level of female sex hormones. And a masculine appearance (a sharply defined chin, protruding cheekbones, facial hair) is a typical sign of a high concentration of testosterone. In women, preferences can even depend on their own hormonal background: studies show that during the period of ovulation, attraction to men with clearly masculine facial features increases.

Sounds logical. But the question is how much these basic biological mechanisms guide us in real life. Some scientific evidence reveals gaps in this scheme. For example, large-scale studies say that people don't care how symmetrical another person's face is (perfectly symmetrical faces look strange to many, and people with regular facial features are actually not healthier than others). The averageness of facial features is not necessarily a guarantee of attractiveness. A woman's estrogen levels also don't always make a masculine-looking man more beautiful in her eyes (background piano music does a much better job of that). Finally, if biological mechanisms were of paramount importance, we would not have such a subjective perception of beauty.

Culture and society

Our preferences are imperceptibly formed by the cultural and social atmosphere in which we grow up. For example, we unconsciously change the idea of ​​a person's attractiveness (or type) depending on how high or low our environment evaluates his attractiveness. Moreover, research has shown that even the opinions of strangers influence us here. American scientists compared how subjects evaluate the attractiveness of faces in photographs before and after they are told the average score of their attractiveness according to other people. It turned out that someone else's assessment affects the perception of the face, even at the level of neuronal activation. In a similar experiment at Johns Hopkins University, all subjects, influenced by the opinions of others, ended up agreeing on attractiveness ratings.

What is the secret behind the contagiousness of cultural and social trends? The tendency to unconsciously align with other people's opinions is a very pragmatic psychological mechanism that helps take the extra workload off the brain, explains psychologist Anthony Little: And with the development of social networks, this mutual “learning” has reached the planetary level.”

Personal experience

It is he who gives individuality to preferences. Although it is not formed in a vacuum.

  • Imprinted . Often we are drawn to people who are somewhat similar in appearance to our parents. And this is quite natural. From birth, the facial features and facial expressions of our parents are firmly fixed in the psyche - this process is called imprinting. The image of the people who ensured our survival is so deeply engraved in our memory that we are guided by it even in adulthood when choosing a partner for long-term relationships (1, 2). We are not talking about a literal similarity: we need not a clone, but a “remake”. Enough of a few coincidences: the same facial expressions or face shape, the same position of the corners of the mouth or the distance between the eyes, etc. By the same principle, we can also like people who outwardly resemble the person with whom we had our first serious relationship.
  • Personal assessment. We are known to be attracted to people who are close to us in character and beliefs. And what about external attraction? Judging by the research, we are able to quite accurately determine some character traits - from the level of self-esteem to religious beliefs - not only by the face of a person during live communication, but also simply by photographs (1, 2, 3). The same can be taught to do a neural network. So, there are objective parameters of appearance that reflect certain personality traits. We unconsciously read this information at the first glance at a person and just as unconsciously evaluate the degree of our compatibility. Its attractiveness in our eyes also depends on this conclusion.
  • Aesthetic experience. We have already written that any aesthetically significant stimulus seems more attractive under two conditions: on the one hand, it must lend itself well to recognition and interpretation (that is, in some sense be familiar to us), and on the other hand, it must carry new information in itself (an element of uncertainty). If these factors are well balanced, the neural reward circuit is activated to the maximum. This is clearly seen in the example of the perception of art. Experience and "observation" are individual parameters, therefore, the balance between recognition and surprise is different for everyone. If we evaluate a person's face as an aesthetically significant stimulus, for example, as a picture, then the combination of familiar features with some kind of "zest" - a new and original feature that our eyes cling to, should seem attractive to us.

Although we immediately understand whether we like a person, during this moment several biological, socio-cultural and psychological mechanisms manage to work in the subconscious at once. Individually, their algorithms can be calculated, but the result of their interaction is unpredictable each time. Therefore, there is always freedom of choice.

Scientists have found out what men and women are looking for in a future partner

Older women pay more attention to a man's appearance and less to intelligence, income and other qualities that are important for young girls, scientists from Australia found out. With men, the reverse metamorphosis occurs - the external attractiveness of a partner for them gradually fades into the background over the years, and the personality begins to play a more important role.

The preferences of men and women in potential partners differ in youth, but become more similar with age, Australian experts from the Queensland University of Technology found out. They outlined the details in an article in the magazine PLOS ONE .

People's preferences for sexual partners influence their decisions about sex, relationships, and having children. This, in turn, affects other aspects of society - gender roles, the level of equality, the birth rate, politics and much more. However, it remains unclear how preferences for certain traits differ between men and women and at different stages of life.

To find out what traits men and women find attractive in partners over the years, the researchers surveyed 7,325 Australians aged 18-65 registered on dating sites. Participants in the study were asked to rate the importance of nine characteristics of a potential mate on a scale of 0 to 100.

Traits were divided into three categories - aesthetic (age, attractiveness, physical characteristics), resource (intelligence, education, income) and personal (trust, openness, emotional connection).

Statistical analysis of responses revealed similar priorities for men and women: both rated physical body, attractiveness, and all three personality traits as very important, while income was much less important. However, women rated the importance of age, education, intelligence, income, trust, and emotional connection 9-14 points higher than men. In addition, compared to all other characteristics, men placed more importance on attractiveness and physique than women.

More interesting were the changes in preferences with age. Although men in general gave more relative importance to aesthetic characteristics than women, this gap narrowed with age - men began to be more interested in other qualities, while women paid more attention to visual attractiveness. At the same time, mature women were less interested in the personal qualities of their partner than young women. Representatives of both sexes with age attached more importance to openness and trust.



In general, with age, the preferences of men and women became more and more similar.

“Both sexes tend to find the same things in potential partners as sexual, but at different stages of life,” the researchers note. “At different ages, men and women can differ significantly in how much importance they attach to certain characteristics.”

Differences in preferences between men and women may be related to the theory of parental investment in evolutionary psychology, says lead author Stephen White. According to this theory, females are more selective in their choice of partners because they put more effort into the survival of offspring.

Many gender differences are socialized, but some are evolutionary, explains psychologist Beatrice Alba of Deakin University.

Learn more