Sarah Humberg, Tanja Maria Gerlach, Teresa Franke-Prasse, Katharina Geukes and Mitja D Back

Is (actual or perceptual) personality similarity associated with attraction in initial romantic encounters? A dyadic response surface analysis

Personality Science

A central assumption in lay and psychological theories is that people are attracted to potential mates who are similar to themselves in personality traits. However, the empirical findings on this idea have been inconclusive. Only a few studies have considered real-life dating contexts, and the statistical approaches they applied have sometimes spuriously identified similarity effects. In our study, 397 heterosexual singles (aged 18-28) participated in real speed-dates (Ndates = 940). Using dyadic response surface analysis, we investigated effects of actual similarity (similarity between self-reported personality trait levels) and perceptual similarity (similarity between an actor’s personality and his/her perception of the partner’s personality) concerning the Big Five traits. Neither type of similarity was related to initial romantic attraction. That is, the empirical evidence contradicted the idea that attraction occurs when people’s personalities match. We conclude that understanding initial attraction requires a deeper understanding of interpersonal dynamics in first encounters.