The Limitations of a Word

“Some people have a way with words, and other people…oh, uh, not have way.”
— Steve Martin

This will not be among my best-thought-out ideas. I only thought of this yesterday, and I didn’t do any research in support of it. I just got the idea, and thought it brings some small measure of clarity to an entirely murky subject: attraction. Let me show you where I’m going with this.
I hear a lot about how attractive certain qualities are. Sense of humor is one of them. The ability to cook is another. I know a lot of guys think that a girl who plays Xbox is something special to behold. And I think it’s a no-brainer that these traits are great to find in the opposite sex, that yes, we do find them attractive. But they do not attract us to the people that have them.
(When I say this, I mean on average. There are some men that will be all over any woman they discover plays video games. There are exceptions, but I am concerning myself with the general trend.)
I think it’s important, then, to distinguish between two classes of traits we would ordinarily describe as “attractive.” I am going to just use the two terms that came to me yesterday, though maybe there are better ones to be found in the Psych literature.
1) Attractor traits. These are the characteristics that a person has that generates attraction to them in other people. Psychologists generally divide these further into “reproductive” and “survival” traits. Reproductive traits include symmetry, body type, the size of eyes relative to the face, and so forth. Survival traits include things like confidence, ambition, security, and tribal affiliation.
2) Amplifying traits. These are where all of those other things fit in. The ability to cook, for example – and I can say from personal experience – may do precious little to generate attraction in the opposite sex, but has been greatly appreciate by the women who have already found me attractive. On the flip side, if a woman has no attractor traits at all, it doesn’t matter how much Xbox she plays, she will never seem attractive to the average man.
The best practical metaphor I could think of for this is buying a car. No matter what kind of car you’re looking for, you need it to have a few basic characteristics before you’ll consider it: it has to run reliably and have a body to protect you from the elements, say. No SYNC system in the world will get you to buy a car that doesn’t run. You know, if you’re normal.


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