A path-breaking new study on how we seek similarity in relationships, co-authored by researchers at Wellesley College and the University of Kansas, upends the idea that “opposites attract,” instead suggesting we’re drawn to people who are like-minded. The study could lead to a fundamental change in understanding relationship formation—and it sounds a warning for the idea that couples can change each other over time.
The investigation’s findings are presented in “Similarity in Relationships as Niche Construction: Choice, Stability, and Influence Within Dyads in a Free Choice Environment,” in the current issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the field’s most respected journal. Assistant Professor of Psychology Angela Bahns (Wellesley College) and Professor of Psychology Chris Crandall (University of Kansas) are the paper’s lead authors.
In what might be considered a paradigm shift, the study’s most surprising discovery is that people in relationships change each other over time. Instead, Bahns and Crandall’s evidence places new emphasis on the earliest moments of a relationship—revealing that future friends or partners are already similar at the outset of their social connection, a major new finding, say the authors.