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The Science of Attraction

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

What influences who we are attracted to? Scientists have uncovered ways in which faces, voices, behaviour, and even odour can affect who we find attractive. This short course aims to offer an introduction to this field. It will examine contemporary findings in the science of attraction and will provide an insight into current scientific debates.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required.

Content of Course

1. Studying attraction as a science. An introduction to why scientists study attraction and attractiveness, taking account of social and evolutionary perspectives. We will also consider theoretical perspectives on strategies for pairing up.

2. What’s attractive and why. What’s attractive? Symmetry? ‘Averageness’? Sexual dimorphism? This class will examine biological principles - that apply across the animal kingdom - that can be used to explain and understand what we find attractive.

3. Fluctuating fertility. Our behaviour and attractiveness changes with varying hormone levels. What could be the purpose of these fluctuations?

4.Odour and attraction. We’re all familiar with using artificial odours to enhance attractiveness, but what about natural body odours? We will explore how and why our personal fragrance is so important in attractiveness and what it signals.

5. Attraction science in the media. This last class will focus on how to approach and evaluate attraction research as reported in the media. We will also evaluate a recent media report of a new finding.

Teaching method(s)

Each two-hour class will consist of a combination of lecture, with some multi-media presentations, and tutor-led discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of scientific research on attraction;
  • Explain why scientists study attraction;
  • Evaluate the difference between a scientific understanding of attraction and a personal understanding of attraction.


Core Readings


Buss, D.M., 2003. The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating. 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books.
Miller, G., 2003. The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped Human Nature. New York: Vintage Press.
Perrett, D., 2010. In Your Face: The New Science of Attraction. Houndsmills, Hamps: Palgrave Macmillan.

Web Sources
Face Research features psychology experiments about preferences for faces and voices.

Class Handouts

Handouts and lecture slides will be provided.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.