Perceived Similarity Supercedes Actual Similarity For Daters

Crossing the floor of a town-hall event, to ask a girl if she fancies a dance once brought youthful baby-boomers together in pursuit  of romance. They tucked their shirts into their jeans, had big hair, bigger shoulder pads and no Smartphones. Nowadays, speed dating has usurped the town-hall tango irrevocably and has risen to the status of normality for many looking for love. Recently, it has even helped psychologists discover how romantic attraction develops.

Several decades of research has finally agreed upon something cavemen and cavewomen realised much earlier: similarity is involved in interpersonal attraction.

More recent studies challenge the idea that actual similarities significantly contribute to romance: the idea is losing it’s magic. Instead the idea of perceived similarity is said to cause increased attention.
Natashi Tidwell and her colleagues published a study this year that may be a deal breaker for involvement between actual similarities, single dates and meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right.
The study coveted an answer to the truth of attraction: what is more important for early contact with potential lovers- perceived similarities or the actual similarities that exist?
Speed dating was used to provide a naturalistic setting for early encounters and the findings are bad news for actual similarity’s future: possessing actual similarities to your date during first contact is not associated with later romantic interest, perceived similarity is.
Tidwell’s team concluded that actual similarity did not predict romantic attraction- at all. Two measures of actual similarity even perplexed the researchers by being negatively associated with attraction: being dependable and being friendly. Don’t be like that.
Most of the specific perceived similarity measures used, such as appearing ambitious and having good career prospects, significantly predicted romantic attraction, albeit weakly. General perceived similarity, however, was strongly associated with romantic attraction. So much so that the researchers suggest participants may not even have distinguished between romantic interest and general perceived similarity with the person sitting opposite them- they may be the same thing.
The team acknowledge the findings may not generalise to all population groups, as the participants tended to be students between the ages of eighteen and twenty years old.
Nevertheless, these findings support a move by social psychologists to ditch actual similarity and become acquainted with perceived similarity to better understand burgeoning romance.
Thomas Mort
Perceived, not actual, similarity predicts initial attraction in a live romantic context: Evidence from the speed-dating paradigm, N. Tidwell et al, 2012
Online Advocate/Australian Higher Education/Community Health/Youth Mental Health. Follow me on Twitter @writerinsight


  1. Lily

    11/11/2012 at 1:34 am

    Basically, the first impression to a person we have never met, would affect the later how we think about the person. BUT, Shakespeare said ” two people first meet, if their body temperature are 38.6′, they must fall in love. ” therefore, if you wanna have a romantic speed dating, do not forget bring a “body thermometer!”

  2. Thomas Mort

    15/11/2012 at 3:31 am

    Haha, Thanks Lily, that’s timeless advice no-one should ignore! It also explains the very low birth rate in Antartica- Indeed, first impressions count.

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