Tuesday 20 February 2018

Opposites don't attract - researchers debunk myth of love

Good-looking and successful, no wonder Brian O’Driscoll and Amy Huberman are a perfect pair. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Good-looking and successful, no wonder Brian O’Driscoll and Amy Huberman are a perfect pair. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Sarah Knapton

The theory that opposites attract is a myth, scientists have found, after discovering that people are attracted only to those who hold the same views and values as themselves.

In a finding hailed as a 'paradigm shift' for the understanding of relationships, researchers found that like-minded people will be drawn together but keep their distance from those who do not adhere to their beliefs.

It suggests that strangers hoping to hit it off would do better to play to their similarities rather than trying to impress the other person with attributes which make them unique.

"Picture two strangers striking up a conversation on a plane, or a couple on a blind date," said Angela Bahns, professor of psychology at Wellesly College in Boston.

"From the very first moments of awkward banter, how similar the two people are is immediately and powerfully playing a role in future interactions. Will they connect? Or walk away?

"Those early recognitions of similarity are really consequential in that decision.

"We're arguing that selecting similar others as relationship partners is extremely common - so common and so widespread on so many dimensions that it could be described as a psychological default."

To find out how important similarity was to forming relationships, researchers from Wellesly and the University of Kansas approached more than 1,500 random pairs, including romantic couples, friends and acquaintances, and asked them to complete a survey about their values, prejudices, attitudes and personality traits.

The information was then compared to see how similar or different each pair was and to see whether people in longer relationships had more in common.

It emerged that all pairings held similar life views even if they had only just met.

"People are more similar than chance on almost everything we measure, and they are especially similar on the things that matter most to them personally," added Prof Bahns.

In a second experiment, the researchers surveyed pairs who had just met in a college classroom setting, and then surveyed the same pairs later.

There was virtually no change in beliefs over time, suggesting that if couples go into a relationship hoping to change the opinions of the other, it is unlikely to work. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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