"Now consider humans," Finkel said. "It is extremely rare that humans mate in the absence of mutual consent. Feeling attracted to a new person, or having that person be attracted to you, is not a reliable indicator that you have a good chance of initiating a sexual relationship with him or her. Mutual attraction is required for that."
So, a spike in testosterone may "promote efforts toward establishing a relationship with the other person," Finkel theorized.
He and his colleagues presented their findings this month at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans. Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
According to Edelstein, the Northwestern research opens up "really interesting questions."
"The [hormonal] changes are specific to mutual attraction, suggesting some sort of effect of 'chemistry,'" she noted. So, "how accurate are people about this mutual attraction, and are some people better at detecting it than others? And might those differences be related to testosterone?"
Another expert said the study had real merit.
The study "confirms past research that has shown that the feeling that someone else is attracted to us is one of the strongest contributors to us being attracted to them in return," said Jeffrey Hall, an assistant professor in the department of communications studies at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence.
"If you actually ask people to list what they most want in another person, right up toward the top is finding someone who is attracted to them," he noted. "It's such a strong effect that just the thought that another person might be attracted to us is compelling. So in being able to show physiological evidence of mutual interest, I think this study is very exciting."
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