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17 Signs of Physical Attraction, According to a Former Therapist

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Past rejection and failed relationships can contribute to self-doubt. Having misjudged someone’s character once just might make you doubt your ability to accurate read the room next time. You might even struggle to identify when someone is being friendly versus showing signs of interest and physical attraction.

You don’t want to project your own thoughts and feelings onto your romantic interest and then face the awkwardness of rejection when you find out you read it all wrong.

Also, you don’t want to miss the signs — and miss either the threat or opportunity, depending on the circumstances. 

How to Know if There’s Physical Attraction

woman on the beach
Photo by Jernej Graj on Unsplash

The following signs of physical attraction have all been substantiated by scientific research. None of these signs were decided purely based on personal opinion or guesswork.

The signs that someone is physically attracted to you, or that you’re attracted to someone else, can’t tell you if the relationship is healthy or right for you, but they can give you a read on the situation. 

Why listen to me? I’m Crystal Jackson and I was a master’s level licensed therapist. I worked with couples and individuals and specialized in trauma recovery and empowerment. I now write content about relationships, self-improvement, and psychology. My work has been featured in large publications such as Elite Daily, Your Tango, Positively Positive, and Mamamia.

1. Eye Contact

Beautiful woman with long red hair and freckles making eye contact
Beautiful woman making eye contact

Research has shown that prolonged eye contact creates a sense of trust and intimacy and reduces uncertainty when it comes to the formation of romantic relationships.

If you believe in love at first sight, eye contact is particularly impactful to attraction.

Scientists found that people who identify as romantic are more likely to feel greater romantic attraction after gazing into another’s eyes.

People who aren’t as romantic might not interpret eye contact as strongly and could even look for other signs to substantiate suspected attraction.

Keep in mind that neurodiverse individuals aren’t as likely to use eye contact to convey attraction as others.

In this case, a neurodivergent individual may experience physical attraction without engaging in prolonged gazing.

Social anxiety in general might also limit eye contact in social situations making it tough to read if someone is attracted to you or not.

Luckily, there are other science-backed signs of physical attraction to help you decide. 

2. Blushing

Blushing is an involuntary reaction that just might reveal physical attraction. According to an article in Psychology Today, blushing is caused by adrenaline’s impact on the nervous system.

It’s your body’s most honest response, and while blushing in the face is the most prevalent sign, you can actually blush anywhere on your body where attention is focused. 

Of course, blushing alone doesn’t necessarily signal attraction. People can blush because they feel embarrassed or ashamed.

If you just caught someone staring at you from across the room, they could blush because you caught them staring and not necessarily because they’re attracted to you — although it could be that both are true.

While it’s not the only sign that matters, it can help you determine if someone’s feelings are genuine. You may need to add this physical reaction to other signs to determine if the person is feeling attraction or if they’re embarrassed and uncomfortable with the interaction. 

3. Pupils Dilating

One tried and true sign that someone is physically attracted to you involves pupil dilation. Scientists have consistently found that larger and darker pupils are signs of sexual attraction and arousal. You can use this to gauge if your crush is crushing on you, too.

Of course, sexual and physical attraction aren’t necessarily sure signs that the other person wants to date you or have a committed, monogamous relationship.

Someone can have an attraction to you and yet be in a relationship already, or someone might be attracted but not interested otherwise.

This is why it’s important to look for other signs of attraction and to communicate openly to determine interest. 

4. Open Body Language

Reading body language is important if you’re looking for physical signs of attraction in another person.

Research has found that open body language increases your romantic desirability. In other words, people are more likely to be attracted to you if your body language is expansive and open versus guarded and closed.

The researchers tested this using pictures online as well as during an in-person speed dating event and found no differences between the two. People who took up more physical space and didn’t have their limbs contracted into their bodies to take up less space were considered more attractive. 

What’s interesting about studies on open body language is that being more expansive doesn’t just increase attraction. It also shows when someone is attracted.

Generally, if you feel more comfortable around someone, you’re going to open up your body language more than if you’re uncomfortable.

If you see someone’s body relaxing and staying open, it’s a pretty safe bet that they are attracted or, at the very least, comfortable with you.

If you note guarded body language, they could just be shy, but it’s also possible that they’re communicating a lack of interest. 

5. Voice Changes

An article in Scientific American breaks down how voices change when physical attraction are involved. Researchers found that when men flirted with women, their voices got deeper and also more pitch-variable.

In other words, their vocal tones were closer to talking to a puppy or baby when attraction was involved.

Interestingly enough, men’s voices got higher in tone when speaking to someone they weren’t interested in romantically or when speaking to another male. 

This particular vocal change seems specific to heterosexual men. Other sexual orientations weren’t assessed in this study.

However, researchers did not that heterosexual women changed their vocal tone around attractive women but not attractive men.

Scientists speculated that this could be because they perceive competition with attractive women, but frankly, that reads like misogyny and should be noted was only an opinion given as to why this might occur.

6. Playful Touching

According to Time magazine, playful and friendly touches are often interpreted as romantic intention.

Soft touches on the shoulder, waist, or forearm were interpreted favorably while shoulder taps and handshakes were seen as casual rather than romantic.

There’s even evidence that touching on the forearm while asking for a phone number increases the likelihood that you’ll get it. Those friendly touches during a conversation are a way to signal attraction and flirtation. 

It’s always important to consider context. If someone accidentally bumps into you and softly touches your forearm while extricating themselves from the awkward encounter, this doesn’t equate to attraction.

If the touch is related to getting your attention in the workplace, it doesn’t mean that the person who touched you has the hots for you.

It’s important to read all the cues and not just take one single piece of evidence as proof they’re into you. 

7. Frequent Smiling

beautiful woman with dark hair smiling

Experts have found an interesting difference between men and women when it comes to how smiling is perceived with attraction.

Men generally find women more attractive when smiling, but the reverse was not found to be true.

You might smile involuntarily when someone you’re crushing on walks into the room, but it might be difficult to interpret when a smile in your direction signals physical interest.

One reason why is because women sometimes smile when experiencing fear, distress, or embarrassment. In fact, researchers have found that smiling in women can often be due to social expectations rather than genuine feeling.

When it comes to interpreting physical interest in others, frequent genuine smiles could convey interest. At the very least, it seems to make women more attractive to men.

This sign is best paired with other body language cues. If she’s smiling but her posture is closed, she might not be interested. If smiling is paired with open body language, interest could be inferred. 

8. Mirrored Movements

One of the most interesting signs that someone is physically attracted to you is when they mirror your movements.

Experts have found that when two people are feeling attraction, they’ll mirror one another’s body language. You touch your hair, and they do the same. You turn in toward them, and they do the same toward you. 

It’s not a conscious copying of your movements. That would be unsettling. It’s an unconscious signaling of attraction. If you’re paying attention, it could be just another clue that they really are interested in and attracted to you. 

9. Fidgeting

Other experts have found that fidgeting is yet another social cue that someone is experiencing physical attraction.

Showing signs of nervousness could be an indicator of attraction. However, it’s important to observe the type of nervousness on display.

Looking for an exit or a rescue is a sign of fear, not attraction. Someone who keeps touching their hair while flirting is likely attracted.

Context is incredibly important when reading the signs in another’s body language. 

10. Pounding Heart

A racing heart is a proven indicator of attraction. This sign, however, isn’t always clear when it comes to interpreting someone else’s attraction to you.

If you’re hugging them, you’ll likely feel their racing heart, but otherwise, you might not be close enough to determine what their heart is doing.

It is a good indicator of your own attraction — in case you were in denial about your level of interest in someone. 

11. Sweating

You might not equate sweating to physical attraction, but it can be a clear sign. Of course, on a hot day or inside a gym, you can’t interpret sweating as interest.

However, if you’re flirting with someone and notice that they’re sweating, it could be because they’re into you.

Research has found that men’s sweat can increase arousal and release cortisol in women while women’s sweat tends to increase sexual attraction and testosterone in men. 

12. Leaning In

Another key indicator of possible physical attraction occurs when the person you’re talking to leans in toward you.

Leaning in can indicate interest, attention, and a desire for greater intimacy. Unless, of course, you’re whispering, and then leaning could just be a desire to hear you better. It’s another clue you’ll want to add to the growing list of indicators that the person in question truly is physically attracted to you. 

13. Licking the Lips

If a woman licks her lips, it’s usually a sign that she’s either nervous or attracted.

Rapid breathing due to physical arousal could create dry lips needing to be moistened, but licking her lips while engaging with you could also be her way of signaling interest.

She’s likely doing this unconsciously, but it can be another sign she’s interested and finds you attractive. 

14. Frequent Proximity

beautiful woman with red long hair and freckles making eye contact

You might not realize that regular proximity can actually increase the likelihood of physical attraction. The time you spend together can increase a sense of intimacy and interest.

While proximity alone isn’t a guarantee that someone is physically interested, it is one way that attraction builds over time. 

15. Laughing Often

Laughter isn’t just the best medicine. It’s also a sign of physical attraction.

Researchers have found that women are more attracted to men who make them laugh, and men are more attracted to women who laugh when they’re being humorous.

When you’re trying to figure out if someone is physically attracted to you, note how often they laugh at your jokes or how often they try to draw a laugh of you.

While laughter alone doesn’t equate to attraction, it can certainly be one sign of it among many. 

16. Preening 

When you’re attracted to someone, you typically want to look your best around them.

Scientists have found that preening around someone you’re attracted to happens most often at the start of a relationship when the connection is still being established.

Preening could involve checking your reflection more often, fixing your hair, or even making sure you don’t have spinach in your teeth.

The obvious concern about looking good can translate into another hint that this person is physically attracted to you. 

17. Removing Physical Barriers

Another interesting sign of physical attraction occurs when someone removes a barrier. For instance, you sit down, and the other person has a shopping bag in the seat between you. They remove it.

This allows you to sit closer if you’d like to do so.

Of course, it could be a considerate gesture to make sure you have enough room, but it could also be a sign of physical attraction.

Observation can tell you which one it is as long as you’re not trying to prove a particular hypothesis (for example, looking for proof only that your affections are returned). 

Removing physical barriers between the two of you could be a way of showing that they are open to more physical closeness.

On the other hand, someone who consistently places barriers between you is providing a physical boundary that indicates a need for more space.

If you’re crushing on someone, note the distance they keep between you. If it shrinks and they’re the reason why, it could be yet another checkmark in the box for strong physical attraction.

Conclusion

Physical attraction can be fascinating. On the surface, it seems superficial, right? You think that the other person’s individual features make up an attractive whole.

Yet, you can experience initial attraction to someone and then decide that they are actually repulsive when presented with negative personality attributes.

You don’t even have to have a first-hand experience of their less-than-ideal character traits. You can spy an attractive person across a room and then witness that person treat a server with disrespect. Suddenly, the physical attraction evaporates as quickly as it arrived. 

I point this out to demonstrate that looking good and being kind are two very different things. You might be born with certain physical characteristics that society judges as more attractive.

Facial symmetry is a great example. However, if you show unattractive personality traits, you just might be viewed as less desirable. 

What’s on the outside does count for a lot. For most of us, physical attraction in an important part of a relationship, but happily, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and isn’t defined by society or culture alone.

However, what’s on the inside is what’s going to make — or break — a relationship.

When you consider what to do to make yourself more attractive to the people you like, don’t forget to make your inner self is as beautiful as your outward one. 

The Truly Charming