Contrary to the popular notion that ‘opposites attract’ when it comes to relationships, a new study suggests that we are more likely to be drawn to people who are like-minded.
The results could lead to a fundamental change in understanding relationship formation - and it sounds a warning for the idea that couples can change each other over time, researchers said.
The study found that people in relationships do not change each other over time. Instead, the evidence places new emphasis on the earliest moments of a relationship - showing that future friends or partners are already similar at the outset of their social connection, researchers said.
“Picture two strangers striking up a conversation on a plane, or a couple on a blind date,” said Angela Bahns from Wellesley College in US.
“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,” said Bahns.
Whether or not a relationship develops could depend on the level of similarity the two individuals share from the beginning of their meeting.
“You try to create a social world where you are comfortable, where you succeed, where you have people you can trust and with whom you can cooperate to meet your goals,” said Chris Crandall from University of Kansas in US.
“To create this, similarity is very useful, and people are attracted to it most of the time,” said Crandall. “Though the idea that partners influence each other is central in relationships research, we have identified a large domain in which friends show very little change - personality, attitudes and values, and a selection of socially-relevant behaviours,” added Bahns.
“To be clear, we do not mean to suggest that social influence does not happen in relationships; however, there is little room for influence to occur when partners are similar at the outset of relationships,” she said.
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, researchers said.
The study has major implications for how to grasp the foundations of relationships and approach relationships when the partners are different, researchers said. The findings were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.