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Can you simulate being attractive?

by Beth Divine 31 Dec 2018

We almost all know what it’s like to be attracted to someone else: that little swoop of the heart, the urgent beating of our pulses, a blush and a smile, the feeling of being happier than you’ve ever been before, just from being in their company. That feeling is so wonderful and precious that it is difficult to understand that it is caused by a rush of hormones: bodily created chemicals to which our systems react with those aforementioned feelings.

But this understanding raises an important question: can you simulate the effects of these chemical processes effectively enough that someone actually believes that they are in love with someone else?

Stories about love potions have existed for years and years, in folk stories and fairy tale – but what if they were real? What if the administration of the right combination of drugs could make you feel genuine attraction to someone that you wouldn’t otherwise fancy? In theory, it is possible.

Attraction begins sexually, usually, with a rush of testosterone and oestrogen respectively. This is the stage where you catch each other’s eye and think, ‘Oh yes. I wonder…?’ We already know that these hormones can be manipulated artificially with levels being raised or lowered as desired to induce or reduce reactions.

The next step sees the system being flooded with dopamine (the ‘feel good’ hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure), adrenaline (the fight or flight trigger that could also be called the ‘fight, flight or fuck’ response) and norepinephrine (which boosts alertness, making you notice every little detail about your crush, from the curve of their butt to the colour of their hair and eyes). The bombardment of all three hormones floods the system with pleasurable sensations, and you realise that you want to spend time with, and get close to (both mentally and physically) the source of your attraction. Once again, in theory, all these hormones can be artificially simulated, and a person ingesting them will feel all the above mentioned sensations.

However, the problem comes when the person does not know who they are ‘meant’ to be attracted to. If you are surrounded by a lot of people it is quite possible that they will believe that someone else is the cause of their feelings of love and infatuation, leaving you high and dry having gone to all the effort of creating and giving them the ‘love potion’. 

Giving someone a substance without their knowledge is morally indefensible, you never know who might be allergic to one of the hormones, or something else in the ‘potion’! And, of course, forcing someone to fall in love with you is never going to be a good basis for a relationship.

So, while it may be possible to chemically replicate the effects of falling or being in love: it is unlikely to work as a long term strategy and may well even be illegal!