Who calms your nervous system? Who reads your emotions and internal state well? Besides giving you a feeling of reassurance and support, these people receive a mental reward themselves for confidently interpreting your intentions and emotions. These rewards make you more attractive to the other person.
A development in social/neurobiological science suggests that the more similar someone’s neurological mapping is to ours the more rewarded they are in their brains during interactions with us.
Neurobiological accounts of social cognition suggest that when humans evaluate the inner state of another person, they implicitly use neural representations of their own states as reference, and empirical studies have provided evidence that is consistent with this idea. —, , , and
What about opposites attract?
I’ve paired with people whose internal wiring did not align with mine. Though there was a desire to connect and communicate, it was a struggle and depleted my energy. Repeated misreading of emotions and motivations eroded any initial attraction.
Interestingly, I’d say my original attraction to these partners could be classified as an opposites attract dynamic. The theory that we are rewarded for correctly predicting others’ feelings/intentions shoots holes in the opposites attract idea.
Perhaps polarity creates the initial spark but similarity creates endurance?
How do you get similar brain mapping?
Based on research, personal experience, and coaching clients’ experiences, I’d say our neural pathways take shape through years of environmental and relationship influences. The opportunities provided to us form our patterns of behavior and choices. Our close and primary relationships (i.e. family and long-term intimates), forge neural pathways and emotional reactions.
Attachment theory addresses many of the ways this occurs. For example, if we had secure and trusted relationships with our parents as young children, we are more likely to have secure and trusting relationships with others as adults. We better anticipate the responsive and secure reactions of others who grew up within a stable, healthy home environment.
If on the other hand, our mother suffered from high anxiety and our father drank too much, we may grow up with a less secure family foundation but we may also have a keen sense of how to read others. Our parents’ behavior fostered more self-reliance and sensitive pathways in our brain.
For instance, a small wince from our mother may have had us swiftly grabbing her hand to soothe her. Tuning into others then becomes our specialty as an adult. If we find another person who grew up under similar circumstance and is also skilled at reading others, the neural vocabulary overlap gives rise to confidence in understanding each other and a chemical reward in our brain.
Where do values come in?
Do people with similar values find each other more attractive? I would think so. The more our values are confirmed by someone else, the better we feel, right? The opposite is true as well, yes? The more our values are denied, the worse we feel.
What we value has well-worn neurological paths in our brain. If we find someone with similar worn paths, it seems reasonable to believe we would be more comfortable, have greater understanding and thus more attraction to them. For example, if we highly value treating others with kindness, finding someone with a similar regard for people would make it easier to understand and respect them.
These are my own conjectures. Do you agree?
Do our natures give us similar neural circuitry?
In Building Beautiful Introvert/Extrovert Relationships, I talked about how my ex-husband and I were different in many ways. Our emotional understanding and vocabularies did not overlap much at all.
It seems natural that introverts would be able to understand and read other introverts better than they read extroverts, but I’m not convinced the two types can’t be excellent emotional interpreters of each other. I still think environment and relationship history have the most influence on our ability to predict others’ reactions and affects.
I do think sensitivity levels play a part in determining how well two people understand each other and how attracted they are to each other. It seems logical that two highly sensitive people would have more of an emotional vocabulary overlap. Sensitivity is both biologically and socially influenced.
My ex-husband and I had different sensitivity levels and very different upbringings. We may both be introverts, but we still had difficulty relating to each other.
Relating makes for strong partnerships and collaboration
It makes sense that we would be attracted to people we easily understand and relate to. Resonance creates a powerful pull.
The research pointing to neurological reward during interactions with people of similar brain circuitry, gives us one more tool to use in our endeavor to find the best partners and collaborators. People we can confidently read and understand due to similar internal mapping, draw us to them and serve as strong companions for achieving goals and successful social interactions.
How do you feel around people who “get” you? How do you feel about people you can read easily? Is there an attraction?