By Charly LesterMarch 4 2015
Have you ever seen a couple and been surprised by how alike they look? Or laughed about how much a dog resembles its owner? It’s not just coincidence. The cliché might be that opposites attract, but according to scientific research, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Turns out, what we really like is what we see in the mirror…
In 2010, a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin asked participants to look at photographs of people unknown to them, and to rate their sexual attractiveness. Then, some of the photographs were digitally blended with photos of the participants themselves, and the same question asked again. This time, the blended images came out top. Scarier still, the same pattern emerged when the pictures were blended with photos of the participants’ parents.
More recently, in 2014, the statistician Emma Pierson from genetics company 23andMe looked at data from over one million matches on the dating website eHarmony. Again, the data revealed a clear pattern – people prefer dates who look like they do. What’s more, daters weren’t just drawn to the most obviously attractive qualities such as age, physical features or income – even similar numbers of profile pictures made a match more likely. In fact, out of 102 traits compared, there wasn’t a single one where women were more likely to contact men with qualities opposite to their own. Interestingly, men using the dating site were more open-minded. Although they still showed a preference for mates of a similar height and level of attractiveness, 80% of the traits in the study carried less weight for men than they did for women.
But what about serious relationships, once that first fizz of attraction has worked its magic? Pierson also surveyed couples that had children together, matching DNA from saliva samples with the answers to thousands of survey questions, and found that couples correlated positively for 97% of traits. These included punctuality, how apologetic people were, and even whether they were former smokers (though there were a few choice characteristics where opposites do tend to attract – including night owls pairing up with morning people, and those with a good sense of direction being attracted to those who lacked one).
Obviously, some of these characteristics could have changed over time, thanks to their shared relationship. But there is yet more evidence that shows to what degree we are hooked on ourselves. Back in 1985, a survey in the United States showed that even name alliteration affected peoples’ choice of partner. The likelihood of choosing a partner with a name beginning with the same letter was found to be 12% higher than it would have been if the selection was totally random. So maybe Kanye and Kim, or Mickey and Minnie are bigger than their brands after all…
Narcissim? Compatibility? Comfort zone? Whatever the case, have a look around at the people you’re most attracted to. Spot any similarities? No? Sure…?
News bites: This week in the world of dating…
• Tinder launched the much anticipated Tinder Plus, to a storm of criticism. The advanced app includes new rewind and passport features, however daters over 28 are expected to pay almost four times as much as those under 28.
• Durex launched Durexlabs, their first step into digital technology. The condom company have enlisted the help of Susie Lee, the CEO of dating app Siren. Apparently their first product will be a piece of technology designed to ‘help users achieve orgasm’.
• Currency exchange market CurrencyFair released an infographic comparing the price of the same date around the world. The company valued dinner for two, followed by cinema tickets and a taxi home. The cost of the date differed from just 94 euros (£71) in Madrid to 223 Swiss Francs (£169) in Geneva.
• Spark app launched in London. The app is designed using bluetooth and serendipity. Users can send a spark to strangers they cross paths with during the course of the day, and the use of bluetooth means it also works on the Underground.