Are You Sapiosexual?

07 February, 2016

Height, health, good looks, sense of humor, money, power… all of these things are answers to the question, “why are we attracted to a person?”

When we are attracted to someone, we do not often ask ourselves why that is, nor do we have internal debates about “why” or “how.” It just happens, and this translates into our desire to be with this person and our attempts to fulfill this desire.

“To fall in love is to feel enchanted by something, and something can only enchant if it is or appears to be perfection”
-José Ortega y Gasset-

The classical vision

The classical laws of attraction – according to social psychology – acknowledge four basic principles: similarity, proximity, reciprocity, and increase in attraction under conditions of anxiety and stress.

Other factors that we find along the path from attraction to love are physical attraction, similarity, and familiarity. Empirical evidence from the late 20th century showed that beauty is a key factor in how we judge others.

Commonality, or shared beliefs and attitudes, is also another pillar. According to Byrne and Clore, when we sense that others agree with our points of view and our characteristics, we feel more attracted to them. We are no longer alone, others support us because they think and are like us.

Last but not least, familiarity is yet another important element. According to researchers Monge and Kirste, we gravitate to those with whom we feel the most familiarity.

We can find support from clinical psychologist Mila Cahue, who summarizes the complexity of these processes in the following way: “there is a strong mental component. There are no fixed rules that indicate why we desire someone. Everything from genetic factors to emotional lessons come into play.”

The intelligence of attraction

New technologies may be changing the laws of attraction, given that they open new paths and forms of communication. More than ever before, we are now able to connect with people that may be quite different from us — in physical location, background, culture, and views.

However, it is possible that new technologies do not play such a relevant role. Stories about students who are in love with their university professors, apprentices in love with their mentors in the working world, and listeners in love with their radio announcers formed a part of our day-to-day long before the term sapiosexual was coined.

Girl Pointing to Brains

A sapiosexual is someone for whom the primary factor determining attraction is the intelligence of other people. This does not mean that they do not value physical appearance, emotions, similarities, or reciprocity, but above all else, it is the quality of conversation, the complexity of their knowledge, or the specialization of the person that serves as a point of interest.

Why? What sets these people apart from others? Personality psychologists note a high level of the personality train known as “openness to experience.”

This corresponds to people who are curious, who have a strong imagination, and who are open minded. In general, they appreciate art and they like to listen to innovative ideas.

This new form of sexuality seems to unsettle some people. It seems to go against the more biological or evolutionary explanations of attraction, which have long been believed. These classical sociobiological tendencies explain attraction in terms of our natural instinct to procreate. That is to say, men tend to choose women with attributes associated with maternity and immaturity (small nose, large breasts, wide hips, and big eyes and mouth). On the other hand, women look for features characteristic of dominance or care of their offspring (large jaw, muscular strength, or tendencies to help others).

Smart Man, Strong Shadow

So how do we recognize sapiosexuals? We can establish the following pattern: the search for surprise in a good dialogue and focusing on topics such as philosophy, physics, art, or literature. That intellectual stimulation will translate into sexual arousal and excitement just like that experienced by the majority of people.

Heterosexuals, homosexuals, metrosexuals, bisexuals, asexuals, sapiosexuals…there are an infinite variety of patterns and preferences around attraction and love. As psychologists, we must keep gathering experiences related to the ways in which people form relationships, the factors that influence this process, and the individual processes.