In Dating, Opposites Don’t Attract – At Least, Not When It Comes To Faces

10 July 2023

PhD student Amy Zhao from UQ’s School of Psychology featured in IFL Science about her research that found people were more attracted to partners who looked like them.

Ever glanced at your partner and done a double take because you thought you were looking in a mirror? Okay, maybe not – but perhaps you’ve noticed certain similarities between your facial features.

If so, you certainly aren’t alone, and a new study might be able to explain why, in some cases at least, opposites don’t attract.

New research from The University of Queensland, Australia, and the University of Stirling in Scotland, UK, found that in a speed dating situation, people with similar faces tended to find each other more attractive.

The study was unique in that the 682 participants actually met each other in rounds of three-minute interactions, exactly like traditional in-person speed dating – other similar studies have had people look at faces on a computer screen.

After their speed dates, the participants were asked to rate each other based on whether they found each other’s faces attractive, and whether they perceived the other person to be “kind and understanding”.

A photograph of each participant was taken, to allow the researchers to perform a series of analyses to measure “facial averageness” – how close someone's facial structure is to the geometric average for their sex – “masculinity”, and both raw and sex-controlled facial similarity.

The study was led by UQ School of Psychology PhD student Amy Zhao. 

“We found that participants rated partners who had geometrically average faces and faces similar to their own as more attractive.

"Participants also received higher facial attractiveness ratings from partners of the same ethnicity, compared to those from a different ethnicity."

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