“Those who are alike are alike” or in love “Opposites attract”? Here's what science says

Are we more attracted to people similar to us or those different from us? Popular wisdom has a proverb that supports each hypothesis: “Those who are alike are alike” and “Opposites attract”. Both have a grain of truth, and there is certainly a lot of variability from individual to individual depending on each person's personal taste, but what do the scientific studies say about it? The prevailing line states that statistically, when it comes to “attraction at first sight” – that is, the choice of which people we would like to get to know better – we are more attracted to those who have similar interests to ours because with these people we seem to be able to achieve greater intimacy and a higher degree of connection. However, when a relationship is established, a preference emerges for those who are similar to us in terms of tastes and interests but different from us in terms of control and dominance attitudes.

Because we are more interested in people similar to us: studies

It is no mystery that we often, without wanting to, project our way of thinking onto other people. It is a behavior that can have a strong influence on how we relate to others. We are talking about thought self-essentialistwhich instinctively leads us to have a perhaps unconscious preference for what reminds us of ourselves: in the case of people, for example, we will tend to like those who have the same humorthe same opinionssame tastes and the same values. Not just for an affinity from a discursive or linguistic point of view hobbybut because these similarities lead us to think that a person with similar characteristics to us also shares something deeper with us: our essence.

self-essentialism projecting thought

You know when you meet someone and you immediately get along well, in confidence? Here, we are talking about exactly this, the feeling of knowing someone at first sight because “he is like me and therefore we understand each other”. And this is where we tend to reflect this on othersa fairly inevitable “cognitive shortcut” since it is not possible to have a complete vision of the thoughts and feelings of a person external to us, so we tend to fill in our sense of self these “gaps of knowledge” that we have towards people we consider similar to us.

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Be careful, though: a study from Boston University that investigates theself-essentialism states that these considerations refer to the so-called “attraction at first sight”, not to consolidated relationships. We therefore tend to be attracted to people similar to us when it comes to choosing who we would like to get to know better. As for the relationships startedstudies show that it is very common to search people similar to us by affiliation (i.e. the characteristics we described above), but dissimilar regarding control (i.e. the dynamics of dominance and “submission”). For example, a person with a dominant nature will tend to get along better – on a statistical level – with another with a more gregarious character and vice versa.

affiliation couple similar interests attraction

The studies are then often conducted in specific communities, in which the individuals have the same culture, and therefore do not exclude that comparing different cultures there might be different results. This aspect of our psyche can certainly be a glue within a community, but it also has a strong side effect: the distrust towards strangerswhich historically led to racisms And ghettoizations.

Why do they say that “opposites attract”?

But even if studies confirm that we are attracted to those who look like us, then that is not true “Opposites attract”? In reality these are not black/white issues, and we all know that sometimes it is precisely those who are most different from us who attract us. This could come from some sort of “charm of the mysterious”from the curiosity of the human being who is driven to make continuous discoveries in the scientific field and – why not – also cognitive/relational.

It should also be considered a possibility philosophical origin of this saying. Heraclituspre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived around 500 BC famous for the phrase panta rhêi (πάντα ῥεῖ), “everything flows”, he was a staunch supporter of theory of opposites, who fight and unite, thus generating the flow of life. For the Greek philosopher, in fact, it is precisely from contrasting things That the most beautiful harmony is bornand everything is generated – and «flows» thanks to conflict: hot things cool down, cold things heat up, and so all opposites, uniting, generate life.

CORDIS – Results of the EU research Journal of Personality and Social Psychology “The polysemy of good and evil in the thought of Heraclitus”, F. Piangerelli – University of Macerata