Speed dating study finds opposites don’t attract

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Two people speed dating

A speed dating study co-authored by a University of Stirling expert has found opposites don’t attract.

A unique experiment saw 682 participants meet each other for short, unconstrained interactions before rating each other. Previous studies have asked participants to rate faces on computer screens.

Researchers who conducted the speed dating study found people with similar faces rated each other more highly for attractiveness.

They also found facial masculinity and femininity were predictors of attractiveness in face-to-face interactions.

Dr Anthony Lee, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Stirling's Faculty of Natural Sciences, who co-authored the study, said: “Forming meaningful relationships with others is a fundamental human driver and understanding the mechanism of attraction can help facilitate or maintain romantic and sexual relationships.

“Previous research has identified facial attributes associated with attractiveness, such as facial masculinity or femininity, averageness, or the similarity of a face to your own. Often these previous studies are set in contrived laboratory settings where people rate images of real or digital faces.

“In this study, we assessed whether these facial attributes are important when predicting attractiveness during face-to-face interactions. This project was a large speed dating study where 682 participants met each other for short, unconstrained interactions before rating each other.

“We found that, in face-to-face interactions, facial masculinity and femininity predicted attractiveness. We also found that people rated others facially similar to themselves higher. These findings help confirm that results from previous lab-based studies apply in real-life, face-to-face interactions.”

The study Objectively measured facial traits predict in-person evaluations of facial attractiveness and prosociality in speed-dating partners was published in peer-reviewed journal Evolution and Human Behaviour.

The speed dating study was conducted by the lead author PhD student Amy Zhao at the University of Queensland, Australia. This study is part of a larger project investigating attraction and social interactions from face-to-face meetings. 

Amy said: “These results suggest that people may seek facially similar romantic partners, as they are perceived more kind, understanding and trustworthy due to a potential overlap between facial similarity and relatedness.”

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