Fancy That Stranger? Here Are 3 Reasons Why

Sexual Attraction And The Brain

Science has long been fascinated with the whys behind sexual attraction. Especially when it comes to being attracted to someone you don’t know, someone who isn’t usually your type or having sexual feelings towards someone even though you’re happily coupled up.

This article will explore 3 potential reasons why your brain might be sexually attracted to a stranger, by focusing on scientific research. But, and it’s a big but, while this article will offer reasons why random sexual attractions occur, it won’t justify flings or affairs, nor will it excuse being creepy. Let’s be very clear on that before you start to worry/ find relief. 

Are you ready to discover more about sexual attraction in everyday life?

1. Seeing Red

The brain’s associations with and reactions to colour are pretty incredible. Studies have shown that the colour of your own or someone else’s outfit can affect a stranger’s signals within their brain. 

A 2012 study by Adam D. Pazda and Andrew J. Elliot, crudely named Dressed for Sex: Red as a Female Sexual Signal in Humans, found that, “Women on a website dedicated to facilitating casual sexual relationships were more likely to prominently exhibit red.” A similar study by Elliot AJ found that, “Women perceive men to be more attractive and sexually desirable when seen on a red background and in red clothing.”


These findings show that our brains can subconsciously choose different coloured clothing to serve as a signal, especially when it comes to sexual intercourse. “It highlights the need to extend research on color beyond physics, physiology and preference to psychological functioning.” Elliot AJ’s study concluded with, “These findings indicate that color not only has aesthetic value but can carry meaning and impact psychological functioning in subtle, important, and provocative ways.”

Like in the animal kingdom, where many primates have/use red signals to attract a mate, humans may also have the capability to give signals to and trigger other human brains. And in this case, it’s clear that the brain has a lot to say (think) when it comes to seeing red.

2. Smell Those Pheromones 

The olfactory system, or sense of smell, is highly underrated in us humans. Olfactory communication is very common in the animal kingdom and it’s now gaining considerable scientific traction in the human world.

Previously, the focus has been on humans being only visual or ‘optical’ creatures, but now the role of pheromones in human interactions is no longer being sniffed at. And when it comes to human sexual behaviour, wow do they have an impact. 

Research by Heather Hoffman focused on the aromas of sexual arousal between men and women; “Humans can detect aspects of identity, reproductive status and emotional state from body odor.” Her new research looked at women’s neural (brain) responses to male sweat and examined sense of smell in sexual arousal in men. 

“Axial sweat was collected from naturally cycling women when they were sexually aroused and when they were resting, during both their follicular (the follicular phase starts on the first day of menstruation and ends with ovulation) and their luteal phase (the luteal phase starts after ovulation, when the ovaries release an egg and before menstruation starts). Men were exposed to both aroused and resting sweat in a state of low-level sexual arousal.” They found that participants smelling follicular phase sweat reported “greater subjective sexual arousal… than men smelling luteal phase sweat.

This study highlights the underlying, controlling and hidden force of human pheromones in our everyday lives. 

3. High Anxiety Conditions 

Ever been in a stressful situation which has made you more aware of the people around you? Connecting with someone via eye contact as reassurance that it’s all okay?

A study by Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. Heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety included 85 passersby who were contacted either on a fear-arousing suspension bridge or a non-fear-arousing bridge by an “attractive” interviewer, who asked them to complete a Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) using pictures. A TAT is where you see images and create stories about them. They discovered that, “Sexual content of stories written by passersby on the fear-arousing bridge and attempts to contact the interviewer post-experiment were both significantly greater.” 

They repeated the test in various situations and found that high anxiety situations did heighten sexual attraction towards strangers involved in each experiment. 

With so many potential explanations as to why you may be suddenly attracted to a stranger, these 3 are significantly science-backed. And they bring us much closer to the animal kingdom than ever before. So when you next find yourself swooning over Toni in accounts for the first time ever, or feeling attracted to that man watching the same street fight as you, there may be a science-backed cognitive reason behind it… 

Discover our latest articles on brain health, cognitive development and wellbeing:

Sources Cited:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0034607

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301051118306756

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20677892

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1975-03016-001

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1983-09491-001

All information featured in Peak – Brain Training articles are provided for informational purposes only and are not substitutes for medical or physician advice.

Maisie Bygraves

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.