Do Opposites Really Attract or Do Birds of a Feather Flock Together?


| 6 Comments
Everyone loves the classic Romeo and Juliet story.  Nearly every love story has two people from different worlds coming together who could not be more different.  And I can't be the only one who has heard the phrase "opposites attract", but according to psychological research, opposites don't attract at all.

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Do opposites really attract?

According to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, no study to date has every found evidence to support the idea that opposites attract.  According to a study done by Byrne, the greater the similarity between husband and wife, the higher their reported marital happiness.  Of course this is an observational study, and therefore we cannot determine that similarity causes marital happiness as there could be a third variable, but there is a positive correlation between the two.  

But, according to a study done by Griffit and Vietch, by looking at personality profiles of 13 unacquainted men, the researchers could predict, with better than chance, who the guys would become friends with and who they would dislike after confining them in a fallout shelter.  Of course, the experiment has a very small sample size which often yields unreliable results, and there is the matter that friendship and romance are two very different things.  With that said, it is comforting that this experiment continues to support the data found by other researchers.

According to an article from Kansas State, the main reason why opposites may be attracted to each other is because they are searching for someone to fill a void in their personality.  For example, if someone is very introverted, then they are likely to be attracted to someone who is extraverted because they are really searching for that within themselves.

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Opposites may not attract.

In my opinion, two birds of a feather really do flock together.When people are similar, they have similar outlooks on life, and therefore get along together better.  Plus, all of the scientific evidence thus far, supports this stance.  I think that the romanticism behind the opposites attract idea is the idea that anyone can do anything and that anyone can be together if they really want to.  

So what do you guys think, do opposites attract or do two birds of a feather flock together?

6 Comments

I actually found an article from Science News with the same title as your entry. The article reveals that "researchers at the University of Iowa find that people tend to marry those who are similar in attitudes, religion and values" and that "similarity in personality that appears to be more important in having a happy marriage" (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050213191438.htm). This brings up the interesting point that attraction doesn't always play a role in who people choose as their life partner. I always had the idea that people were more likely to be physically attracted to someone who is the "opposite" of them but as you mentioned, there isn't any scientific evidence to support this.

I've always wondered this too! Seeing as I am still unmarried, I don't have a concrete answer for you but I do have a question! Does this theory pertain to homosexuals? It is more frequent to see homosexual couples that are opposites for example, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi. Ellen never wears feminine clothing or grows her hair long and Portia embodies all feminine traits (long hair, dresses, heels, make up, etc. I always found the "Gender within a gender" ideology fascinating.
A more moderate view is offered by Elizabeth Wilson in her essay “Gayness and Liberalism,” which was originally published some time in the early eighties but revised slightly for publication in a 1986 collection of essays. Instead of arguing "completely against lesbian role playing, Wilson issues the warning that inherent in any role playing is the possibility for the abuse of power, and butch-femme roles have the potential for being just as sexist as heterosexual roles. Because the identities of both butches and femmes are built on popular cultural stereotypes of male and female behavior, she argues, they tend to reinforce the inequality in power inherent in this dichotomy, where one of the partners is active, strong, dominant, initiating, etc., and the other is passive, weak, submissive, and enduring. The assumption here, however, is not that butch and femme roles are inherently sexist, but that in the popular construction of these roles along heterosexual lines, the possibility for sexism is increased."

Sorry for rambling... just thought it was really interesting.

Source: http://amygoodloe.com/papers/lesbian-identity-and-the-politics-of-butch-femme/

I think that sometimes people think too much into things. If you look at it, it really makes no sense for somebody to try and be with somebody else who is a compete opposite of you. In my opinion, why would you want to be with somebody who has completely opposite views. Of course the one reason stated above is that maybe people are looking for void in their personality, but i also don't think that is how you find love or friendship. Many people become friends because of similarities that they have and not differences. I never really heard of two people becoming married because they disagreed on everything, however that is an extreme situation. This is where science can come in and make this topic pretty cool. Using a variety of experiments science can try to figure out if people who have opposite personalities really do get along or not. Although every case is obviously different including the variables invoked, at the same time science can try to predict the outcome. It would be interesting to see any other studies and follow up blogs on this topic. Something i would like to see is a study that shows that even if two people have the same interests they may not automatically get along.

This was a huge topic in my psychology class last semester. As this study states, my professor adamantly told us that opposites do not attract. An earlier comment stated how they were interested in "gender within a gender" attraction. Even without looking at homosexuality it seems very relevant. I have never met any of your friends, but I guarantee that your closest friends are very similar to you. In that sense, it makes no sense that a life-long partner would be somewhat who is very different than you. We surround ourselves with people that have similar interests, similar senses of humor, maybe even a similar look. So why then if our friends are like us, would we pick someone who is unlike us to stay with us through sickness and in health?

Having someone around me who is very similar would be boring.I want someone to show me different things whether it be their culture, music or anything else. I agree that 'opposites attract' is true to the extent of looking for someone to fill a void that you have within yourself. I know a couple that might be an example of this. The woman is the sweetest person you could ever meet and I've never heard her say no to anyone. Her husband is the complete opposite and can be harsh. I guess it's like yin and yang.

I think it really depends on how you define opposite. Similar to what Carolyn said in the first comment on this blog, opposite can be looked at in terms of a person's personality or a person's values. In my personal opinion, I think that people can be attracted to someone of the opposite personality type, like you said, because maybe it makes them feel complete. However, I think it's near impossible to make the case for "opposites attract" when the values and goals of two people are the element in question. I know for me, one of the reasons my ex and I broke up was because of our opposing views on religion-- an "opposite" which would never work because neither of our minds would ever change.

I found a study performed by two scientists that talks about the notion of "opposites attracting" and a person's goals. Not to my surprise, the synopsis states that "participants whose goals were complemented by their partners' behavior were more satisfied with the interaction than those whose goals were not. In both studies satisfied participants perceived their partners as similar to themselves."

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/72/3/592/

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