What Are the Types of Attraction?

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Attraction plays an important role in drawing us to other people. While it's common to think of attraction in a sexual context, there are actually a number of different types of attraction that people experience throughout their lives.

Attraction can be defined as an affinity for something or someone. It can be romantic, but it can also be emotional, platonic, physical, sexual, or intellectual.

This article discusses some of the different types of attraction and the effect these types of attraction can have on your life and relationships.

Types of Attraction

When people hear the word attraction, they often automatically assume that it refers to sexual attraction and romantic attraction. They also assume that those two forms of attraction overlap or are essentially the same thing. 

It is important to recognize that people can experience attraction in different ways. Understanding attraction and what you feel can help you develop a stronger sense of self-awareness and a better understanding of what you need in your relationships with other people.

Research suggests that attraction is one factor that plays an important role in interpersonal chemistry or the connection that you feel when meeting someone for the first time.

Physical Attraction

Physical attraction involves a desire to touch or be touched. It often centers on the desire to be around other people and to show love and affection through physical touch.

Physical attraction is not the same as sexual attraction, although the two share some similarities.

While sexual attraction focuses on becoming involved sexually, physical attraction focuses on other forms of touch that are not necessarily sexual. Hugging, kissing, and other physical forms of physical affection are a few examples of how this type of attraction may be expressed.

Emotional Attraction

Emotional attraction involves having an affinity for another person based on their personality or other inner characteristics. When you are emotionally attracted to someone, you often feel a desire to learn more about them because of who they are as a person and not because of their physical appearance.

This type of attraction plays an important role in all types of close interpersonal relationships, including friendships and romantic relationships.

Research suggests that emotional attraction can play a pivotal role in the success of romantic relationships. One study found that being emotionally accessible was more important than being sexually accessible. Couples who lacked this emotional connection were more likely to break up.

Being emotionally attracted to other people can also help in the formation and maintenance of relationships over the long term. When you are more emotionally invested in another person, you are more likely to ask questions and pay attention to the thing they are interested in.

When you invest more of your energy into a relationship, you are more likely to build a deeper intimacy that supports a deeper, longer-lasting connection.

Romantic Attraction

Romantic attraction is a type of attraction in which people desire a romantic relationship with another person. It is not the same thing as sexual attraction, although the two can often occur at the same time. Romantic attraction can also occur without the desire for physical or sexual contact.

For example, a person who is aromantic experiences little to no romantic attraction to others. The term alloromantic is used to describe people who do experience romantic attraction. Demiromantic is a term that describes a person who only experiences romantic attraction under certain circumstances. 

Sexual Attraction

Sexual attraction is an attraction based on the desire to engage in sexual activity with another person.  It can inspire feelings of arousal and lust, and it isn't necessarily limited to real life. It can also involve fantasies or a sexual attraction to people who you find appealing and arousing but who you will never have intimate contact with (like a crush on your favorite celebrity).

While physical attraction and romantic attraction often overlap with sexual attraction, there is a great deal of variety in terms of what people experience in terms of romantic and sexual attraction.

For example, people who are asexual don't feel a desire to have a sexual relationship with other people, but they may still experience romantic attraction and enjoy being involved in romantic relationships.

The split attraction model (SAM), is a way of understanding how sexual attraction may differ from romantic attraction. According to this framework, the genders of people a person is romantically attracted to may not necessarily be the same as the genders of people they are attracted to sexually. 

Recap

Sexual attraction involves a desire to become sexually involved with another person. While it often occurs alongside romantic attraction, the two are not the same. Sexual attraction can occur without romantic attraction, and vice versa.

Aesthetic Attraction

Aesthetic attraction involves believing that something is beautiful and visually appealing, but not feeling the need to pursue any type of physical, romantic, platonic, or sexual relationship. 

You might see people in your life who you feel are very beautiful, whether they are people you know or celebrities that you see in popular media. This type of attraction involves feeling an appeal or affinity for the visual, aesthetic appearance of that person, but it does not extend to wanting any type of contact or relationship.

Aesthetic attraction can also apply to other visual objects you encounter. This type of appeal influences the type of products you choose to buy and the type of decor that you choose to use in your home or office.

Intellectual Attraction

Intellectual attraction refers to finding someone's thoughts or intellect appealing. This type of attraction might cause you to want to learn more about a person, get their opinion on different topics, or learn new things from them.  

While intellectual attraction is non-physical and non-sexual, some people find that they need to feel intellectually attracted to a person before they can develop another type of attraction, whether it is physical, emotional, or sexual. 

Recap

Other types of attraction beyond physical, romantic, and sexual attraction include aesthetic and intellectual attraction. Aesthetic attraction involves finding something visually appealing, while intellectual attraction involves finding someone's mind, ideas, and thoughts appealing. 

Impact of the Attraction

Different types of attraction can affect your behavior in a variety of ways. Research has found that when people perceive another person as attractive, it creates positive expectations about other characteristics including their intelligence and personality.

In other words, if you find someone physically attractive, you're also more likely to think that they are also smart, funny, kind, and a whole host of other positive qualities.

This phenomenon is an example of what is known as the halo effect. This tendency can play a role in how you perceive people in a variety of contexts, whether you are evaluating their likability as a romantic prospect or whether you are thinking of hiring them for a job.

In one study, people who were rated as being more physically attractive were more likely to be seen as having positive personality characteristics such as agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Types of Attraction and Relationships

Attraction is not always easy and it can be confusing at times. It is likely that you may experience many different types of attraction throughout your life. Being able to recognize the type of attraction you are feeling can help you navigate your relationships more effectively.

For example, you might find yourself feeling intrigued by someone in your life, but that doesn't mean that it is always easy to pin down exactly what you are feeling. Because people so often equate attraction with either romantic or sexual attraction, it is easy to assume this interest must mean that you want an intimate relationship with that person.

Becoming more aware of what you are feeling and how you experience different types of attraction can help you better sort out what it might mean. Do you have a desire to become sexually involved with them? Or do you want to spend time with them and learn more about what they think? Or are your feelings related more to intellectual admiration?

Understanding Attraction

There are some things that you can do to become better at recognizing the type of attraction you are experiencing. 

  • Build your self-awareness: Spend time focusing on your feelings so that you can get to know what you like and what's important to you.
  • Establish and maintain boundaries: Learning more about yourself and how you experience attraction can also help you create romantic and sexual boundaries about what you are willing to accept in a relationship. 
  • Understand your motivations: Think about what you want out of a relationship. Are you interested in a long-term commitment, or are you looking for something more casual? Do you want just romance, just sex, or are you looking for both? What role does emotional intimacy play in your needs?
  • Remember there is not a "right" way to experience attraction: One type of attraction isn't better or more valid than any other. Understanding your needs and desires can help you find the relationship that supports what you are looking for right now.
  • Attraction can change: It is also important to remember that attraction isn't set in stone. Your needs and desires can shift over time. For example, you might start by wanting to be involved in a situationship, but shift into desiring a lasting emotional commitment. The key is to maintain a line of open communication with your partner and be willing to discuss what you are feeling and experiencing.

Recap

Building self-awareness and boundaries can help you make sense of your attraction in relationships. Think about what you want out of your relationships and remember that these needs and your feelings of attraction can change over time.

When to Get Help

If you are struggling to understand issues with attraction or if you are unhappy with your relationships or attachments, you may want to consider talking to a mental health professional. A therapist can help you identify what you are feeling and become more aware of how your feelings of attraction may influence your relationships with other people. 

If you are experiencing problems in your current relationship, you might want to consider couples therapy. By working together in therapy, you can learn more about each other's needs and desires. It can also be an effective way to work together to foster a strong emotional, romantic, or sexual connection that can improve your relationship in positive ways.

A Word From Verywell

Attraction is complex and there are many different types of attraction that you might experience at different points in your life. Even over the course of a relationship, the forms of attraction you experience can change and shift over time. 

Learning more about your own experience of attraction can help you better understand yourself, your needs, and your desires. This can help you form and maintain relationships where you understand each other's needs and expectations.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. LGBT Center, UNC-Chapel Hill. Asexuality, attraction, and romantic orientation.

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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.