It turns out opposites probably don't attract — here's why we like people who are similar to ourselves
- About 80% of people believe that "opposites attract."
- In fact, if science is anything to go by, this probably isn't the case.
- Research points to us being attracted to people who are similar to us — both physically and in personality.
If you're on the hunt for love, chances are you've heard the phrase "opposites attract."
Despite romantic comedies hinging on the idea we're likely to fall in love with someone with completely different qualities to ourselves — and the fact that about 80% of people believe this is the case — there is very little scientific evidence to suggest it's true.
In fact, we are more likely to be attracted to someone who is physically similar to ourselves.
According to research from St Andrews, we are attracted to the features that our parents had when we were born, such as eye colour. This could be because we see them as our first caregiver, and associate positive feelings with their features.
Also, an article published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that if someone looks similar to ourselves, we are more likely to trust them.
We might even be able to sense someone is genetically similar to ourselves. Research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that spouses tend to be more genetically similar than two individuals chosen at random. A more recent study has found the same for close adult friends, too.
But it's not just about appearance. Back in 1962, psychologist Donn Byrne was one of the first people to study similarities between people in relationships. In his research, published in the Journal of Personality, he asked participants to complete a questionnaire about their attitudes to topics such as nuclear weapons. Then, they had to evaluate the answers of another person (who didn't actually exist).
The results showed that people felt more drawn to those who held similar attitudes, and the greater the similarity, the greater the attraction.
In later research, such as one study from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and the University of Kansas, like-minded people have been found to spend more time together than those with opposing views.
Researchers recruited 1,523 couples — defined as people sitting together and interacting, not necessarily romantically — and asked them to fill out a survey about their personality traits. Results showed that the couples had a similarity rate of 86%.
A follow-up study used pairs who had just met. After the study, 23% of the pairs remained in contact, and these pairs had a lot in common too.
Last year, a study published in Psychological Science looked at how people behave online, and found more evidence that people who have similar personalities, based on likes and the words they used, were more likely to be friends. Those with the highest levels of similarities tended to be romantic partners.
However, research has shown that couples can start to align their beliefs to be more like each other's the longer they are together. This could be why couples have similar views and opinions on paper.
Overall, searching for your exact opposite probably isn't the most effective way of finding a partner. The scientific evidence points to opposites barely ever attracting. Besides, if the research is correct, you're probably already attracting all the right people anyway.
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