Ever been head-over-heels in love? Yes? Then you know the experience of infatuation.
As it turns out, there’s science behind that lovesick feeling.
When you fascinate someone, you have their complete attention. The word fascinate comes from the Latin fascinare, meaning to bewitch or hold captive so that others are powerless to resist. That’s right, “powerless to resist.” It’s a little like falling in love, really.
Every time you communicate with your colleagues or customers, it’s not enough to just pique their interest. You must completely fascinate them. As the world becomes more competitive and commoditized, anything less might have them moving on to the next shiny object. To dive deeper into how the brain responds when fascinated, let’s take a cue from the neuroscience behind falling in love. Here are seven weird ways that your brain can’t help but be fascinated by love:
1. Your brain loves to love.
Fascination and love both originate in the limbic area of the brain, the part that houses rage, ecstasy, sadness, sexual arousal, and fight-or-flight. That means that when you’re fascinated by a person, experience, or even a product in the grocery store, you’re almost falling in love. As far as your brain is concerned, attraction isn’t a choice.
2. A little obsession might be a good thing.
In his book Lovesick, Clinical Psychologist Frank Tallis describes that if we take the symptoms of falling in love and “check them against accepted diagnostic criteria for mental illness, we find that most ‘lovers’ qualify for diagnoses of obsessional illness, depression or manic depression.” Other symptoms include obsessive behavior, insomnia, hyperactivity, and loss of appetite. Ahh, ain’t love grand?
3. Your brain was built to fall in love.
Anthropologist Helen Fisher reports that love serves an evolutionary purpose. The reason isn’t as romantic as you might hope. Fisher says that it’s in our evolutionary best interest to not think clearly during the two-year time period it takes to produce a child (or else we might come to our senses and avoid the inconvenience of procreation altogether).
4. The expression “crazy in love” is more literal than you think.
Northwestern University psychologist Eli Finkel describes how falling in love can “make otherwise normal people do very wild things. They’ll stalk, hack into email, eavesdrop and do other things they’d never do in a rational frame of mind.”
That’s not so good for people who go a little crazy in love. But it’s a great thing if you want people to go to irrational lengths to follow you or to feel like they are part of what you have to offer.
During my research on brand fascination, I did an experiment where I asked people how much they were willing to pay for two identical pairs of sunglasses, with the only difference being that one had a luxury brand’s logo on them. Although these glasses were exactly the same, people were willing to pay an average of four times more for the pair with the fancy logo. There was nothing rational in their choice, and they’d be the first to admit it.
5. Your voice reveals when you’re in love.
What makes someone sound sexy? The answer lies in biological cues. We salivate when we see delicious food, receive praise, or experience happiness. Your listener subconsciously reads these cues. Marilyn Monroe’s famously breathy voice was not only moist, it was also aspirated. We all naturally “aspirate” our voices– increasing the amount of air through the vocal chords, as if whispering– when in very intimate proximity. Even when speaking to large groups, her near-whisper almost felt like pillow-talk, captivating her audiences.
6. The language of romance is universal.
People from the South Sea islands to Siberia, Cape Town to San Francisco, Reykjavik to Kathmandu, all engage in a fairly fixed repertoire of gestures to test sexual availability and interest, regardless of language, socioeconomic status or religious upbringing.
7. Your brain was born to flirt.
Just as we’re born to be fascinated by very specific signals from a paramour, we’re equipped with a codex to fascinate them as well. Flirtation is the most elemental of all fascinations, the one upon which our species is quite literally dependent, and therefore innate for humans across centuries and geography. Luckily for our great-great-great-grandchildren, we’ve become extraordinarily effective at flirting.
All of these hardwired responses might seem a little crazy, but you can tap into some of them with your marketing, selling, and conversations.
Do you want to be craved by a certain audience? Do you want them to desire your product or organization? Do you want to invite them to move closer?
If so, fascination is your perfect mate.