Study: Opposites Don't Attract, Actually

Only 3% of traits between couples showed strong dissimilarities
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2023 3:05 PM CDT
Study: Opposites Don't Attract, Actually
Study finds that couples tend to flock to partners with similar traits.   (Getty / yamasan)

A study on romantic relationships challenges the notion that opposites attract. According to the Guardian, researchers found that people who partnered up tended to be surprisingly similar among the traits they analyzed, matching up over 80% of the time. The study, led by Tanya Horwitz, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed research covering 22 traits across nearly 200 papers dating back to 1903, and then conducted a new analysis of 133 traits in almost 80,000 opposite-sex couples in the UK Biobank project. The research showed that couples often shared core beliefs, values, and hobbies.

"Even in situations where we feel like we have a choice about our relationships, there may be mechanisms happening behind the scenes of which we aren't fully aware," Horwitz said. Some of these parallels may arise from growing up in the same area, socializing in the same friend groups, or growing similar over time. The research revealed that couples likely matched in areas such as political and religious views and education levels. Heavy smokers, heavy drinkers, and people who abstained from alcohol tended to pick partners with similar habits. The study also found correlation between couples with the same birth year, number of sexual partners, and whether they were breastfed.

However, not all traits aligned: factors like height, weight, medical issues, and personality traits (such as introverts and extroverts) varied among couples. Per Neuroscience News, people tended to partner with their opposites in only 3% of traits studied. "A lot of models in genetics assume that human mating is random," said Matt Keller, a senior author on the paper. "This study shows this assumption is probably wrong." The tendency for couples to align in certain traits could have consequences for future generations, potentially leading to population extremes in characteristics like height or social habits. (Opposites or not, co-habiting couples tend to have a surprising health benefit: lower blood sugar).

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