Drawn to People Just Like You? It's Hard Wired in You

So you think you're drawn to liberal, social-cause-minded politicians because you love Hillary?  Nah.  It was in you all along.

According to a new study, our desire for like-minded others is actually hard-wired in us and it controls our choices in friends and partners.  (Though maybe not in my house.  My husband has become a Fox News-lover and somehow, we're still married.)

But, in what might be considered a paradigm shift, the study’s most surprising finding may be that people in relationships do not change each other over time. Instead, researchers' 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.

"Picture two strangers striking up a conversation on a plane, or a couple on a blind date,” says Assistant Professor of Psychology Angela Bahns (Wellesley College).  “From the very first moments of awkward banter, how similar the two people are is immediately and powerfully playing a role in future interactions. Will they connect? Or walk away? Those early recognitions of similarity are really consequential in that decision."

 Whether or not a relationship develops could depend on the level of similarity the two individuals share from the beginning of their meeting. “You try to create a social world where you’re comfortable, where you succeed, where you have people you can trust and with whom you can cooperate to meet your goals,” adds Professor of Psychology Chris Crandall (University of Kansas). “To create this, similarity is very useful, and people are attracted to it most of the time.”

Forget opposites attract, they say.

Bahns and Crandall stress the research shows people are not seeking shared similarity on one or two particular topics. “People are more similar than chance on almost everything we measure, and they are especially similar on the things that matter most to them personally,” Bahns says.

I suppose that's true.  My husband and I met at a singles weekend (they did that in those days), and though we were different religions, had different careers, and he loved tennis and I'm a klutz, I knew right away that he shared my most important requirements -- honesty, decency and honor.  It's stayed true through the years.

 The researchers did say the quest for similarity in friends could result in a lack of exposure to other ideas, values and perspectives. “Getting along with people who aren’t like you is really useful,” says Crandall. “Friends are for comfort, taking it easy, relaxing, not being challenged — and those are good things. But you can’t have only that need. You also need new ideas, people to correct you when you’re loony. If you hang out only with people who are loony like you, you can be out of touch with the big, beautiful diverse world.”


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