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Title: Perceptions of Ideal and Former Partners' Personality and Similarity
Authors: Pieternel Dijkstra and Dick P. H. Barelds, University of Groningen, Netherlands
Full Report: http://agnaldogarcia.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/03_paper.pdf
Summary, In Plain English:
Summarized by Bradley R. Brenner, Ph.D., Psychologist and Relationship Therapist
If you ask psychologists and relationships experts if birds of a feather flock together they’d more or less say yes. They’d tell you that healthy and lasting relationships are more likely borne out of similar personalities than opposites. However, do most people actually believe that? And do people think of having similar personalities as something that they should prioritize above other factors when searching for their ideal partner? The authors of this study sought to find out.
The authors surveyed 871 women and men who were members of two online dating sites in the Netherlands. The participants ranged in age from 19-78, with an average age of about 50 years. They were asked to respond to questions about their own personality, that of their future ideal partner, and also the personality of their most recent previous long-term partner. Furthermore, they were asked to answer questions about the relative importance of personality and other traits, including physical attractiveness, to the likelihood of success in a long-term relationship.
When asked about the future people prefer that their yet-to-be-found ideal partner have a personality similar to their own.
Based on this finding it would appear that people believe that similar personalities between themselves and their ideal partner is something to which they should aspire. But just how important is that aspiration?
People don’t place much importance on finding a similar personality in their future ideal partner.
Although result #1 demonstrated that people think similarity is important in the abstract, in relative terms it doesn’t rank very highly when compared to other traits. Other aspects about a person are believed to be more important. This study found that women more highly value similar attitudes and sense of humor in their ideal partner, while men more valued physical attractiveness and slightly devalued intelligence in their future ideal partners.
People see no similarity in personality between themselves and their ex.
This is a particularly interesting finding related to other research on the attraction-similarity theory, which states that people see, and sometimes project or create perceived similarities in their mind when they are attracted to someone. That people in the current study could find no similarity in personality between him- or herself and their ex supports the notion that once attraction has disappeared a sense of similarity does too.
Taken together, these results:
- demonstrate a belief that personality similarity is an aspect of what people look for in their future ideal partner,
- but that other facets about a person are viewed as more important, and
- that it is likely that attraction plays a role in views of personality similarity in the first place.
In essence, people appear to recognize that being with someone who has a similar personality is a good thing for the longevity of their relationship, but don’t really see it as a very exciting or an important part of picking a future ideal partner. Furthermore, level of attraction weighs heavily on the perception of similarity and may tamper with people’s ability to accurately judge actual similarities.
Dr Brenner: Based on this information, you should:
- Educate your members about the power of attraction in forming/biasing their ability to accurately assess personality similarities on their own.
- Assist your members to understand the value of personality similarity when they are seeking long-term relationships.
- Provide members with a valid way to gauge the level of personality similarity between themselves and a prospective date
- So as to not appear out of touch or boring, do not overemphasize personality similarity in marketing and branding efforts as members will likely only value it to a moderate degree, despite its known function in long-term relationship success.