Objective And Subjective Attraction


The subject of Attraction was widely discussed in one of my Lenten password protected posts, Picking On Me (now private, like all its kin).  I found that some of the ideas mentioned in that post were especially insightful, in particular the discussion over “objective” versus “subjective” attraction. Since that post is now locked up, those ideas are effectively hidden away, constituting a loss in my book. I am creating this new post because I want to highlight them for all my readers, and to both save some of what was discussed as well as hopefully continue the conversation from before.

As far as structure goes, I’m first going to recreate some of my post below. Then I will rephrase some of the better comments out there so that their origin is unrecognizable. Finally I will add my further thoughts on the subject.


My commentary on “Types” was a major driver in the discussion of of “subjective” and “objective” attraction. Here is most of what I wrote:

Everyone has a preferred “type”, or possibly more than one. I think that “type” is a combination of features that we like which add together into a pleasing package. I know that I have a set of features in women which I prefer, which added together gets close to an “ideal” for me in terms of physical appearance. Some variations are acceptable in this, but overall I think that I have a clear set of preferences.

In the past there was a large enough pool of marriage-worthy candidates that most folks (although admittedly not all) could satisfy at least some of their preferences. But nowadays only those with a really high value can afford to be so picky.

I think that for most guys, and I admit to speculating here, that if a woman meets enough of the features we care most about, we are willing to give a lot of leeway on the others. Essentially, we have a sort of “good enough” level not unlike what I talked about in Romantic Architecture. So if a guy cares about X, Y and Z, in that order, then if he finds a woman with a high X, but the Y and Z aren’t high, he might not mind any deficiency in those features that much. But the opposite, a woman with only a high Z, might not cut it. Again, this is rampant speculation.

That led to some other observations and thoughts:

  • Women have types just as much as men do. And like men, the pool is restricted given the current marriage marketplace.
  • A preferred “type” can be personality based as well as physical based. Although for men, for whom physicality determines most of attraction, a woman’s personality has little to no impact on her attractiveness. Rather, it impacts her desirability.
  • There is such a thing as “sexual draw.” Difficult to define or explain. Basically when a person feels a pull towards someone much stronger than would be expected from their apparent attractiveness. It is unique, between an individual man and woman.

At this point I offered the following:

1) Objective Attraction- the man finds a woman attractive on an objective, impersonal level. This is the “rate me by my photo” level of attraction. It is non-dynamic, meaning it requires seeing a woman at a distance or not in person.

2) Subjective Attraction- this is where a man finds a woman attractive on personal, even visceral level. This is what we mean by “chemistry.” This is heavily dynamic, and probably relies on body language clues, smell and maybe pheromones/hormones. As such, requires close proximity.

3) Personality Compatibility- this is where a woman’s personality matches up with a man’s, such that they “get” each other. This is what we mean by “fell for one another.”

More comments followed:

  • Someone expressed the belief that subjective attraction might be a learned behavior. The possibility of it developing during the bonding that comes through sexed being one example.
  • The dynamic of men being drawn to women like their mothers would be a possible manifestation of “subjective attraction.”
  • The converse could also be true. Both in that this 3-step process would apply to women and their attraction to men, and that women being attracted to men like their fathers would be a subjective attraction example.
  • A preference for a woman/man of a certain race is another manifestation of “subjective attraction filters.”
  • Someone mentioned the role of smell and immune systems, and posted the following link: Major histocompatibility complex and sexual selection.

And that wraps up the discussion of the subject in my old post.



As I hinted at earlier in the comments of the older post, I see attraction as a three step process:

  1. Objective Attraction
  2. Subjective Attraction
  3. Personality Compatibility

Objective Attraction is based on universal criteria. For male attraction to women, this would include features like waist-to-hip ratio, breasts, lets, etc. For female attraction to men, this would be along the lines of the LAMPS/PSALM factors. These are criteria that all men and women have to one degree or another, although individuals will have preferences and might favor one feature over another.

Subjective Attraction is entirely personal. A combination of genetics, learned behavior and environmental factors might all play into it. Most of the subjective attraction factors are based on “triggers” that require close proximity to someone. My suspicion is that subjective attraction is heavily influenced by subconscious or unconscious triggers in our brain, which are hardwired to filter for specific traits as highly desirable (or the reverse). . This might be due to certain traits/features being ideal to combine with one’s own genetics in order to maximize the benefits to any progeny. While it is possible that at some point in the future we might be able to understand this for individual persons, at this point it is far outside our capabilities. As such, subjective attraction is a series of unknowns.

Personality Compatibility is also individual in nature. Although it is not, in my view, quite so occult as subjective attraction remains. Rather, using concepts like Myers-Briggs, we can get an estimate of what personality types we might be more or less compatible with. However, MBTI isn’t perfect, and doesn’t explain all the “deep” connections out there.


Now, this particular pattern might only apply to men. For women, where personality plays into attraction in a way that it doesn’t for men, it might be simpler or more complicated. My suspicion is that for women Personality Compatibility probably folds into Subjective Attraction, leaving just a 2-step process. Given the monogamous nature of women, and the desire for male commitment (preferably from a single man who encompasses all the positive male attributes), it makes more sense for this kind of arrangement. For men, on the other hand, who have polygamous instincts (albeit on a sort of sliding scale), it makes sense that there would be a separate personality component. After all, if we are going to stick to a single woman and invest in her (and our offspring), we need to be able to tolerate her presence.

One consequence of this formulation of attraction is that it highlights the inherent weakness of any kind of objective classification system. The “1-10” scale or my LAMPS/PSALM formulation are based only on objective criteria. Adding in personal, subjective criteria makes them much less accurate and effective at describing the attraction process. Of course, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, there is a strong argument the other way.

If subjective attraction is something that can elevate a person’s attractiveness beyond what their “objective” measure would indicate, it means that a person should never consider themselves “out of the running.” Individualized and hidden preferences might mean that that you trip someone’s subjective triggers despite the fact that they would normally not be attracted to you on a purely objective level.

An interesting point is that usually we don’t differentiate between objective and subjective attraction. That is because most of the time we become familiar with someone through in-person contact. This close proximity allows that subjective measurement of attraction to take place. So most of the time we don’t realize that there is a difference. It is only when we get a non-personal image of a person- like through photos and video for example, and then later meet someone in person, that we can appreciate the distinction.

This has the greatest impact in online dating. That is a medium where objective attraction is established at first, without the subjective components being tested. Because of this, it is possible that someone might seemingly meet the objective criteria of another person and have that person convinced that they are attractive, only for that to be dashed when personal contact occurs. On the other hand, it might also mean that someone might be on the fence about another person’s attractiveness, but meeting them in person triggers their subjective qualifiers and pushes that person into the attractive category. Because of this phenomenon, it is best for folks engaging online to meet in person as soon as reasonably possible.


The major point to draw from this post is that nothing beats personal, face-to-face contact. However much your personalities might mesh, and despite whatever reactions photos and video might bring, meeting in person trumps everything. It also means that someone should never consider their cause hopeless. The occult nature of subjective attraction means that you just might be what someone else is looking for, even though they don’t realize it. And that brings this particular post to a close. If I forgot anything, or anyone has anything to add, please mention so in the comments.


Filed under APE, Attraction, LAMPS, Men, Women

116 responses to “Objective And Subjective Attraction

  1. ballista74

    And my favorite out of all the MarcusD stuff, a screen shot that I kept for a future links post if I do it. Someone got banned from that particular Catholic forum. Reason? “Criticism of feminism.” Right there in black and white.

    It’s there and it’s only spreading, especially considering the words of the current pope about marriage.

  2. mdavid

    ballista, (*) I won’t dignify the double-talking jive the Catholics dance with the words divorce and annulment. They’re the same thing. Just calling it something different doesn’t mean you don’t support frivolous divorces.

    Using your logic, any marriage: say a retarded person who doesn’t know what they are doing, or a shotgun marriage, is binding. Christians have always demanded the validity of marriage to be contingent upon initial free will and initial acceptance of Christian doctrine of both parties. Otherwise, it’s just a pagan marriage. Like the “bouble-talking jive” guys like you are hip upon; each person’s individual description of what marriage means…and then, it means nothing. Unlike your vision, Catholic marriage is clearly defined upon the outset. You may not like it, but is unchanged.

    The reason annulments are so common today is that very few modern people have valid Christian marriages. To be valid, both parties in the marriage had to agree, for example, to be open to life during each sex act. And not many modern Catholics believe this when they get “married”. More than other Christians for sure, but still not that many. So they are merely not getting married in the traditional, sacramental sense to begin with. And why should they? They are functional pagans, just like the vast majority of protestants today are.

  3. deti


    Agreed with the basic premise that most people aren’t validly “married” under the traditional Christian view of “marriage”, which is, among other things, indissoluble absent adultery (in my view), open to children, and unitive via sexual congress. The State does not determine whether a man and a woman are ontologically “married”. God, the man, and the woman do. If that’s our definition of “marriage”, then most people who believe they are married and hold themselves out as married are not “married”.

    I say that because most people, and our culture, view marriage as little more than state-sanctioned boyfriend-girlfriend status. The relationship lasts only as long as both parties want it to; it has whatever parameters the parties want; it is terminable at will; sex is optional (only if SHE feels like it or is attracted to him), and children are optional. That might be what “marriage” is today, but that is not traditional Christian New Testament marriage.

    But where I agree with ballista is that most people are using these technical nuances of Catholic annulment practice to get out of a valid marriage. They are using the “well I didn’t think I was agreeing to THAT” excuse as a loophole to say they’re not really married. They’re married; they’re just not MARRIED married. It just smacks of trying to get out of something, when “ignorance of the law is no excuse” applies.

  4. femininebutnotfeminist

    @ Deti,

    Very well said on your response to mdavid. I was planning to respond to him with something similar, but you stated it much better than I would. The only thing I have to add to it is that people should be much better prepared when getting married, should be given very clear information from the Priest or Pastor about what Christian marriage truly means (I suspect most premarital counseling fails miserably at this). That way, they can’t use the “I didn’t know what I was getting into and wouldn’t have agreed to it if I did” excuse. I know this will never happen in most Protestant churches. Either way, engaged couples should be preparing themselves with the required knowledge (even before they get engaged), regardless of what their church does or doesn’t do. I know, it’s just a pipedream. And I also just wanted to reiterate that I was trying to argue that “chemistry” be given a chance, not “attraction”. I know you guys can decide attraction pretty quickly and I’m not trying to argue against that.

  5. femininebutnotfeminist

    @ DS,

    Yes, 3 or 4 dates is plenty of time for most people to show their personalities. That’s actually more generous than I was thinking, and certainly more generous than the “5 minutes” that you stated earlier. Though I don’t think that combining those hours into one fell swoop is the same. We can show different facets of our personalities over the course of a few dates on different days, having breaks inbetween to process the other person and the situation and therefore getting more comfortable, as opposed to all at once where we might be nervous without having a chance to process and get more comfortable showing ourselves fully. But I think, for the most part, we’re at least somewhat in agreement. So, truce?

  6. mdavid

    deti, …under the traditional Christian view of “marriage”, which is, among other things, indissoluble absent adultery (in my view), open to children, and unitive via sexual congress.

    deti: the “traditional” view of marriage cannot be “in your view”. It’s nobody’s opinion; it is what it is. Your view of marriage is simply not traditional Christian marriage, not in the East, nor in the West. It never had a loophole for adultery nor anything else. What is joined by God cannot be torn asunder by man, period. Once the grace has been given, it cannot be “withdrawn”. God doesn’t go back on His word. The only question tradition ever had debate over: was the marriage real? That is, did God bestow the grace? That’s the traditional position. Sorry if you (and FBNF and the other billion people these days) don’t like it.

    Since marriage involves not only two people but the whole community, it really doesn’t make sense for each person to claim to know what marriage is. It must be something everyone agrees on, or it loses all meaning to everyone but each individual. Hence, the almost hilarious debates ongoing about it among Christians. The word “marriage” has lost all meaning and holds less validity than a contract you and I may make orally.

    But this is academic. Once “exceptions” are given for divorce, the game is up. That’s obvious. Anyone can claim anything (adultery, abuse, whatever). And this is exactly how we’ve seen marriage play out in the West. Individualism rules faith, marriage is over.

  7. femininebutnotfeminist

    @ mdavid,

    Hey, I happen to LIKE the traditional christian view of marriage. Just this morning I read the section about The Sacrament of Matrimony in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and loved what I read. It’s a much better position than anything I’ve ever heard in any of the Protestant churches I’ve been to, that’s for sure. What Deti said about how some people are making the excuse that they didn’t really know or agree with something or other to get out of a valid marriage is just as true as the fact that some people also falsely claim adultery, abuse, etc. And to Deti’s credit, Jesus did allow a so-called loophole for fornication (see St. Matthew 5:31-32). However, that doesn’t mean the loophole should be taken even if the tragic circumstance does happen. Anyone who lives by Tradition will never defile their marriage bed in the first place, nor will they refuse to forgive an unfaithful spouse.

  8. femininebutnotfeminist

    Ah! Please replace the word “excuse” in my most recent comment with “false claim”. It will be more accurate and to the point that way.

  9. @ FBNF

    What translation are you using for your Bible? Because the Greek word used in Matthew 5:31-32 is more encompassing than just fornication. A general translation is sexual immorality, but a more precise one in this instance would be illicit sexual unions. In context, this would refer to illicit marriages, such as ones that involved close relatives (forbidden under Mosaic Law).

  10. mdavid

    FBNF, my apologies; I misread your comments.

    Jesus did allow a so-called loophole for fornication (see St. Matthew 5:31-32)

    There are different ways to interpret the Greek word porneia used here: harlotry, adultery, incest, fornication, etc. Christians have traditionally taught, based on Jesus’ outright condemnation of divorce in many places (which He in turn based upon the the Adam-Eve-one-flesh first divine marriage) that the porneia of Mt 5 translates to either annulment or separation not allowing remarriage. I’m no scholar; I’m not arguing any personal position, merely relating the traditional understanding on that passage.

    On that there is no real debate; there is hard unanimity among Church Fathers, most of them Greek speaking and closer to the culture and language of the bible than us: Hermas, Justin, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Basil, Gregory, Apollinarius, Theodore, Chrysostom, Tertullian, Ambrose, Innocent, Pelagius, Jerome, and Augustine. They all maintained the traditional Christian position that the Gospels never permit divorce and remarriage.

    What I find so fascinating: regardless of one’s particular interpretation of that passage, think of the impracticality of using Scripture as one’s only guide for what marriage means. Two honest Christians teens who believe that every person can and must interpret that passage themselves, and therefore be open to changing their interpretation with new knowledge of Greek, Scripture, and history…remain married only at the interpretive whim of their spouse, and people’s honest understanding changes over time. Mine has. It’s fascinating to reflect upon, how our individualism is our own just punishment, destroying our faith in each other, even inside our own families and faith communities. It’s deeply sad.

  11. femininebutnotfeminist

    @ Donal,

    I got that from my KJV, which, after looking it up online, seems to be the only version that says “fornication” in that verse (the only one I found at least) :-/ (the wiki article on this verse is interesting too… http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_5:32 ) Admittedly, I didn’t look up the Greek before commenting on it (I should have). I’m glad you pointed that out because when I thought of that verse, I started wondering why there would be an exception allowed in the Bible, but not in Tradition. But after looking it up in other versions, which led me to look up the rules in Leviticus 18, it makes better sense that way. I was putting off buying the RSV-CE until making a final decision on Protestant vs Catholic, due to how expensive it is to buy one. But I’m about 99% sure now of what my decision will be, so maybe this is my cue to go buy it, eh?

    @ mdavid,

    No worries, I misread things quite often myself. 🙂 Also, your entire last paragraph touches on another book I’ve been reading called “The Protestant’s Dilemma – How the Reformation’s Shocking Consequences Point to the Truth of Catholicism” by Devin Rose. It talks about a variety of things, one of which is the problem with sola scriptura and the disunity it causes. It’s fascinating really.

  12. @ FBNF

    The RSV-CE is not much different from the standard RSV. The biggest difference is the inclusion of books not present in the RSV, such as Sirach. Otherwise, the translation is the same, although I think some of the footnotes are different.

    And the KJV isn’t actually that bad of a translation, all things considered. Its probably better than some of the newest ones, especially the various Protestant translations.

  13. mdavid

    DG, Otherwise, the translation is the same, although I think some of the footnotes are different.

    The only big difference is the CE’s use of “brethren” for “adelphoi” rather than “brother”. It’s a more conservative translation, allowing for each person’s to decide what it means. I agree it’s not worth buying for anything but the notes, even though the RSV Ignatius Catholic Study Bible is flat-out fabulous for the notes and <$20.

    the KJV isn’t actually that bad of a translation, all things considered. Its probably better than some of the newest ones, especially the various Protestant translations.

    Some of the really bad translations are Catholic! For example, the NAB (especially older ones) is a really bad NT translation. And the notes? They are pretty much near heresy. The DR & the JB aren’t very good. In fact, other than the RSV-CE, there really isn’t a good English Catholic translation; they all suck. All I personally use (besides the Greek of course) is the RSV-CE, NASB, & the NKJV.

    BTW, the original KJV did have the 7 OT books newer versions lack. It put them between the OT and NT.

  14. @ mdavid

    Thanks for the info.

    I have a NAB, although a newer one. The NT translations seem to have been improved since the older versions, but the notes are awful when it comes to anything touching male/female intersections. Flat out feminist at points. Ugh.

    There are a lot of Traditional Catholics who love the DR. From what I understand, it is a faithful translation of the Vulgate. Problem is that the Vulgate itself wasn’t that great of a translation from the Greek (sorry St. Jerome!).

    I mostly use the NSV-CE, at least when looking up scripture online. That is what I use for my Selected Sunday Scripture posts for the most part. Been meaning to grab myself a hard copy for a while, should probably get around to doing that.

  15. Pingback: Analyzing Attraction- Part 3 | Donal Graeme

  16. This was pretty good until I read the words given the monogamous nature of women. There is no such nature regarding women. Women want commitment but it is not natural for them to offer commitment in return

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