A new study by social psychologists at the University of Toronto (U of T) is revealing that when it comes to dating people really do have a ‘type.’ The research has found that when people look for love they do so with the same type of person over and over again.
“It’s common that when a relationship ends, people attribute the breakup to their ex-partner’s personality and decide they need to date a different type of person,” said lead author Yoobin Park, a PhD student in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science at U of T.
Dating similar personalities
“Our research suggests there’s a strong tendency to nevertheless continue to date a similar personality.”
This rather amusing conclusion comes from data from an ongoing multi-year study on couples and families across several age groups. The research saw the personalities of current and past partners of 332 people compared to find there was a significant consistency in the personalities of an individual’s romantic partners.
“The effect is more than just a tendency to date someone similar to yourself,” said Park.
Participants in the study along with their current and past partners assessed their own personality traits on a five-point scale. What the researchers found was that the current partners of individuals described themselves in ways that were similar to past partners.
“The degree of consistency from one relationship to the next suggests that people may indeed have a ‘type’,” said co-author Geoff MacDonald, a professor in the Department of Psychology at U of T. “And though our data do not make clear why people’s partners exhibit similar personalities, it is noteworthy that we found partner similarity above and beyond similarity to oneself.”
By using first-person testimonials the study avoided the biases present in other research
“Our study was particularly rigorous because we didn’t just rely on one person recalling their various partners’ personalities,” said Park. “We had reports from the partners themselves in real time.”
Now, the researchers say they hope their work can contribute to making happier relationships.
“In every relationship, people learn strategies for working with their partner’s personality,” said Park. “If your new partner’s personality resembles your ex-partner’s personality, transferring the skills you learned might be an effective way to start a new relationship on a good footing.”
However, the research can also be used to psychoanalyze why someone might always be attracted to the same type of person.
“So, if you find you’re having the same issues in relationship after relationship,” said Park, “you may want to think about how gravitating toward the same personality traits in a partner is contributing to the consistency in your problems.”
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences s