We take the best academic papers and summarize them in plain English so you can improve your idating site, and help your users make better connections.
Title: The Attraction-Similarity Model and Dating Couples: Projection, Perceived Similarity, and Psychological Benefits
Published In: Journal of the International Association for Relationship Research
Authors: Marian M. Morry, Mie Kito and Lindsey Ortiz
Full Report: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2010.01293.x/pdf
Summary, In Plain English:
Summarized by Bradley R. Brenner, Ph.D., Psychologist and Relationship Therapist
Like the old saying goes, birds of a feather flock together, so it would seem that commonsense dictates that similarities lead to attraction. But are we really attracted to people who are similar to us? Or do we, instead, find similarities with those to whom we are attracted? In this instance it appears as though commonsense is wrong or, at minimum, not telling the full story.
The authors of this article report on 3 studies designed to test their attraction-similarity model of dating couples. Their theory states that attraction leads to finding and, sometimes inventing, a sense of similarity between two dating people. That is, the authors contend that attraction creates a perception of similarity between a person and his/her dating partner, above and beyond the reality of whether there are actually any real similarities.
In study 1 the authors asked 58 individuals who had been dating for an average of 18 months to rate the level of similarity between themselves and their dating partner. At the same time, they collected data on the partner to test how accurate those perceived similarities were.
- They found that individuals rated themselves as similar to their dating partners, which is not a surprising result.
- They found that individuals were highly accurate in assessing those similarities based on comparing the data collected about their dating partners.
- Lastly they found that, above and beyond the reality of those similarities, the individuals also projected a sense of similarity onto their dating partner that did not exist.
Study 1, therefore, begins to draw a connection between attraction and similarity (that sometimes is not even really there) and raises the question of just which comes first, attraction or similarity?
In study 2, the authors examined what effect that temporarily raising awareness of positive versus negative experiences in an ongoing dating relationship would have on ratings of similarity between individuals in a couple. This was a way to test the impact of immediate levels of attraction and satisfaction on ratings of similarity. They hypothesized that if primed to think about negative experiences there would be lower ratings of perceived similarity. If primed to think about positive experiences in their relationship couples were expected to report more similarity. This study involved 248 participants who had been dating their partners for 18.6 months, on average. The authors found evidence that being aware of positive versus negative experiences in the relationship did, in fact, impact ratings of similarity, with those asked to think about positive experiences reporting more similarity in their relationships.
Study 2, therefore, demonstrates a causal link, not only a statistical connection, between attraction levels and ratings of similarity. By temporarily manipulating the level of attraction and satisfaction in a relationship, they saw different patterns of reported similarity. Based on this study it is reasonable for the authors to draw the conclusion with some level of confidence, that attraction itself drives the reported level of similarity, not the other way around.
In study 3, the authors investigated whether perceived similarity between dating partners impacts psychological well-being. Also, to test that rated levels of similarity was not high for everyone in general, they studied whether perceived similarity would be rated higher for dating-patners compared to perceived level of similarity between themselves and an average peer. This study had 136 participants who had been dating their partners for 19 months, on average.
- They found that there was a significant statistical relationship between perceived level of similarity and positive emotions and self-esteem.
- They found that perceived level of similarity was greater for couples as compared to the level of perceived similarity found for an average peer.
Study 3, therefore, found that there are psychological benefits when partners' report similarity in a dating relationship, in addition to being satisfied with the relationship. Moreover, similarity wasn't something that was perceived to extend to just anyone, it was focused on a dating partner.
Taken together, these studies:
- underscore the power of attraction in the presence (or absence) of perceived similarity in a dating couple,
- show that ratings of similarity in a couple are based on a mixture of reality and projected (manufactured) perceptions, and
- demonstrate that psychological benefits are related to the perception of similarity between two people who are dating.
Dr Brenner: Based on this information, you should:
- Not over estimate the appeal of matching systems that predominantly emphasize similarity as this will likely be insufficient in creating a connection between prospective dating couples.
- Watch for member fatigue or burnout on marketing or matching or communication systems that emphasize similarity. Repeated experience with feeling as though your system is miscalibrated and untrustworthy is likely if they are not attracted to the people who your system says is similar to them.
- Consider that attraction is a key element in how much your members will feel an affinity for other members on your site, which in turn leads to more member retention and less member churn.
- Be mindful that understanding what your members' find attractive is an element of helping them to find a dating connection and satisfaction with your site.