Not your body language, but your heartbeat tells you how attractive you find someone

During the study, the young people went on blind dates. They were monitored with all kinds of measuring instruments, including a heart rate monitor. “We wanted to see how the chemistry you can have on a first date develops,” says Elizka Prochazkova, researcher at the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition. “So we examined heart rate, sweat response, eye contact, body language and facial expressions.”

Synchronization

Initially, the researchers thought that facial expressions in particular would reveal whether there was any attraction, but this turned out not to be the case per se. “We saw that interested women were more moved and talkative. Men looked longer at the women who were interested,” Prochazkova told EditieNL. Sometimes people mirror each other’s actions, but that didn’t seem like a watertight indicator either. “If a woman smiles and the man does too, it does not immediately mean that there is a good click.”

So what is a good indicator? The heart rate and sweat response, as it turned out. “When two people clicked, it was because of a synchronous heartbeat and sweat response,” explains Prochazkova. So it’s about running in sync, not about the speed of your heart rate. “If it goes faster, it doesn’t mean you like someone. Women with faster heart rates were more nervous, but not necessarily more interested in their partner.”

Heart rate tells more

Your heart rhythm can therefore determine who you are attracted to, but it can also tell you much more, says Janneke Wittekoek, cardiologist at HeartLife Clinics. “It can tell you if you’re sensitive to stress or stimulus. For example, if you ask a question and your heart rate speeds up,” she says. “It can also tell you how your condition is. Do you have a fast heart rate during short exercise or for a long time afterwards? Then you are in a less good condition.”

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Fever and illness can also cause a faster pulse. And poor sleep quality can make the heart increasingly sensitive to arrhythmias. How bad is such a disorder? “In a young person with palpitations who is otherwise healthy, there is no reason to say that the heart is sick. Older? Then it is possible that your heart is not well supplied with blood or that you have high blood pressure for a long time. Then it is possible important to investigate.”

Healthy living

The way to keep your heart as healthy as possible is actually quite an open door: healthy living. “So no caffeine, no Red Bull, enough exercise and enough sleep,” says Wittekoek. “Slow breathing is also really important to calm your heart rate. That’s what breathing techniques are for.”

So where you have to look inside to see if someone is healthy, you also have to do that to see if there is a real attraction, says researcher Prochazkova. “People are too visual. We look at someone and based on their appearance whether it can be a match or not,” she says. “But in this experiment we also saw that the first impression is not always right, and that the match can still work later.”

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