Opposites attract. That’s how the cliché goes, and people really believe they are attracted to those different from them: 86 percent say they want a partner who “complements them” rather than one who “resembles them.”
There’s only one problem with this idea: It’s false. I studied 1 million matches made by the online dating website eHarmony’s algorithm, which aims to pair people who will be attracted to one another and compatible over the long term; if the people agree, they can message each other to set up a meeting in real life. eHarmony’s data on its users contains 102 traits for each person — everything from how passionate and ambitious they claim to be to how much they say they drink, smoke and earn.
The data reveals a clear pattern: People are interested in people like themselves. Women on eHarmony favor men who are similar not just in obvious ways — age, attractiveness, education, income — but also in less apparent ones, such as creativity. Even when eHarmony includes a quirky data point — like how many pictures are included in a user’s profile — women are more likely to message men similar to themselves. In fact, of the 102 traits in the data set, there was not one for which women were more likely to contact men with opposite traits.1
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