A meta-analytic investigation of the relation between interpersonal attraction and enacted behavior

Psychol Bull. 2018 Jul;144(7):673-709. doi: 10.1037/bul0000148. Epub 2018 May 7.


We present a meta-analysis that investigated the relation between self-reported interpersonal attraction and enacted behavior. Our synthesis focused on (a) identifying the behaviors related to attraction; (b) evaluating the efficacy of models of the relation between attraction and behavior; (c) testing the impact of several moderators, including evaluative threat salience, cognitive appraisal salience, and the sex composition of the social interaction; and (d) investigating the degree of agreement between the meta-analytic findings and an ethnographic analysis. Using a multilevel modeling approach, an analysis of 309 effect sizes (N = 5,422) revealed a significant association (z = .20) between self-reported attraction and enacted behavior. Key findings include: (a) that the specific behaviors associated with attraction (e.g., eye contact, smiling, laughter, mimicry) are those behaviors research has linked to the development of trust/rapport; (b) direct behaviors (e.g., physical proximity, talking to), compared with indirect behaviors (e.g., eye contact, smiling, mimicry), were more strongly related to self-reported attraction; and (c) evaluative threat salience (e.g., fear of rejection) reduced the magnitude of the relation between direct behavior and affective attraction. Moreover, an ethnographic analysis revealed consistency between the behaviors identified by the meta-analysis and those behaviors identified by ethnographers as predictive of attraction. We discuss the implications of our findings for models of the relation between attraction and behavior, for the behavioral expressions of emotions, and for how attraction is measured and conceptualized. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior