For observable qualities like attractiveness, similarity emerges because attractive people seduce other attractive people. But, researchers said, for qualities that vary greatly depending on where you live (like education or religion) similarity emerges because educated or religious people tend to meet each other, not because educated or religious people actively select each other.
Physical attraction--where one simply finds a person physically alluring--is different from sexual attraction, which implies a conscious sexual urge. Fantasizing can be healthy but which relationships make us think?
"Do people have a type? Yes," said the study's primary author, Paul Eastwick, associate professor of psychology at UC Davis. "But sometimes it reflects your personal desirability and sometimes it reflects where you live."
The study was published online this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology of the American Psychological Association.
The article, which comprises three slightly different studies, looked at the characteristics of people in more than 1,000 past and present heterosexual relationships. The information was provided voluntarily through social media sites and live interviews in recent years, culminating in 2014.
Location and Opportunity
In one of the studies, researchers found that people's past partners have similar physical qualities. This was true even when the partners were short-term or casual relationships. "...during the partner selection process, people may have difficulty differentiating between partners that prove to be casual and short-term versus committed and long-term," the study said.
One of the most marked features is the developing sense of discrimination in relationships are our faculties. The faculties of insight, intuition, judgement and understanding begin to come to the fore. The personality softens and begins to mellow. The adult emotional age may begin to emerges if one has successfully grown through the previous levels. This shows as a growing sense of recognising needs of ones partner yet not denying ones own. One becomes more aware of the issues that colour or influence relationship, and meeting them in cooperation with others. Independence and connection can appear together instead of opposite ends of a spectrum. You move toward becoming caring sexual partners through discovering each others needs and vulnerability.
While intelligence or educational level also played a role, Eastwick said, it was often related to where the people went to school or the field in which they worked.
"A second study examined the ex-partners of several hundred young adults sampled from schools across the United States. The exes of a particular person tended to be very similar on variables like education, religiosity, and intelligence, but this type of similarity was entirely due to the school that people attended. Within their local school context, people were no more or less likely to select educated, intelligent, or religious partners."
Our relationships, careers, habits and the ways we interact are all put under scrutiny and modified or changed at some point. That is the time we face up to what does and what doesn't satisfy us.
The study differs from most other research on relationships because this study surveys people's relationships over time, not just one committed relationship, Eastwick said.
It remains unclear why so many of us might harbor a secret hankering for our office colleague, college pal or next-door neighbor, but the study gives us insight.