You know how people joke about having romantic types? (If you're a 'Bachelor' fan, you saw a perfect example of this in the latest season finale, during which the Bachelor wound up with a woman who looked exactly like the last two women he's dated.) Well, it turns out, that's not such a joke after all. In fact, there's new scientific proof to support the theory.
According to researchers at the University of California, we match up to people similar to those we’ve dated in the past. Sometimes, the person we’re attracted to is a reflection of what we desire in others — which can, interestingly, be related to our own subjective desirability — and other times, it's more about where we live. Weird, right?
Dr. Paul Eastwick, an associate professor of psychology who reported on three studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, studied more than 1,000 heterosexual couples to see how people determine their romantic “types” and what attracts them to a certain person over another. The study accounted for their relationships over time — not just one relationship — which gives it longer-term credibility.
The researchers found that we go for others we find attractive, and what we find attractive tends to resemble... ourselves. The researchers took images of participants and edited them into “strangers” who resembled some of their facial features. The participants were more attracted to the strangers that were based on their own photos than to strangers whose faces were not based on theirs. To put it simply, we're into romantic prospects who we believe are at our level in terms of looks (or who simply look like us — so maybe it's a familiarity thing?).
We also tend to stick to patterns once we've established them. People’s exes had similar physical qualities regardless of the type of relationship, the authors say. They explain that we may have a hard time distinguishing between partners who want casual versus long-term relationships during the selection process because we’re blinded by the physical qualities we can't help being drawn to. (Totally explains the hottie you kept going back to who would never fully commit like you wanted.)
Eastwick’s team also noted that participants’ ex-partners didn't just share physical traits, but also preferences and levels of education, intelligence and religion (which is probably related to geographic location). In other words, people of similar mindsets and backgrounds tend to live close together, so they dated those people because they were nearby. Similarities exist because educated or religious people simply tend to meet each other out of circumstances or convenience, not because they actively select each other, the authors say.
"Within their local school context, people were no more or less likely to select educated, intelligent or religious partners," Eastwick said in a statement.
To sum up, who we choose as a romantic partner involves physical compatibility and physical location, but either way, we tend to go for what's familiar to us and what's convenient. Makes sense, but it's also a good reminder that we should break out of our comfort zones when it comes to dating — especially if we're not having any luck finding a good match!