Do Opposites Really Attract?

We've all heard the saying that opposites attract. In fact, it's so common that it's been the subject of, and even the title of, many popular songs over the years. But is there any concrete research to back up this claim? Turns out, depending on your relationship status, the answer to this question may vary.

A 2016 study published in Frontiers in Psychology used digitally altered images to examine attraction patterns in both men and women (via Science Daily). University students were given photographs of members of the opposite sex as well as photos of same sex individuals. In some photographs, researchers contorted the people in the images to look more like the subject viewing them. In addition, participants were also shown images of people whose faces were rendered to be significantly dissimilar to their own. Findings indicated that students who were in partner relationships preferred the faces of those similar to their own. But students who reported their relationship status as single were more attracted to the images of faces different from their own. This proved to be the same across the board for images of opposite sex individuals as well as same sex individuals.

Partner preferences tend to vary according to relationship status

Interestingly, this phenomenon appears to occur in some animal species as well. Research conducted at Duke University examined mating patterns in chimpanzees (via Science Daily). What they found was that chimps are more drawn to partners with genes dissimilar to their own when it comes to reproducing.

However, it appears human preferences tend to shift over time, just as our relationship status may shift and change as well. While the science of attraction is varying and complex, clinical psychologist Vinita Mehta, Ph.D., elaborates on this theory, explaining, "Studies have found that people are more likely to be attracted to and pursue romantic relationships with individuals who are more like themselves across a broad range of personal characteristics, including age, religion, political orientation, and certain aspects of intelligence" (via Psychology Today). In an effort to further understand partner preferences in relationships, researchers Nathan Hudson and Chris Fraley conducted a study that determined, "partners who see themselves as similar have more satisfying relationships, regardless of whether or not they actually are very similar."

Perhaps when it comes to physical attraction, opposites really do attract. However, when it comes to choosing a committed partner, science indicates that those with similarities in their personalities tend to win out.