Monday, August 13, 2007

Fear can be attractive

12 Aug 2007, ST

FOR years, scientists have known that attraction is more likely to happen when people are aroused, be it through laughter, anxiety or fear.

Arthur Aron, psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, tested that theory in 1974 on the spine-chilling heights of the Capilano Canyon Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia - a 1.5m wide, 137m wobbly length of wooden slats and wire cable suspended 70m above rocks and shallow rapids.

His research team waited as unsuspecting men, between ages 18 and 35 and unaccompanied by women, crossed over. About halfway across the bridge, each man ran into an attractive young woman claiming to be doing research on beautiful places.

She asked him a few questions and gave him her phone number in case he had follow-up questions.

The experiment was repeated upriver on a bridge that was wide and sturdy and only 10 feet above a small rivulet.

The result? Men crossing the scary bridge rated the woman on the Capilano bridge more attractive. And about half the men who met her called her afterwards. Only two of 16 men on the stable bridge called.

'People are more likely to feel aroused in a scary setting,' Aron says. 'You're feeling physiologically aroused, and it's ambiguous why. Then you see an attractive person, and you think, 'Oh, that's why.''

He tested his arousal theory further by having people run in place for 10 minutes and compared them with people who didn't run. Those who had exercised were more attracted to good-looking people in photographs than those who hadn't.

Any kind of physiological arousal probably would do the trick, Aron concludes from his studies. Couples who ride roller coasters or laugh at a comedian together get an emotional jolt and could attribute the feeling to the attractiveness of the other.


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