To test this idea, researchers subliminally primed heterosexual men and women with a photo of their other-sex parent

To test this idea, researchers subliminally primed heterosexual men and women with a photo of their other-sex parent

4. Game theory. Recall the famous scene in “The Beautiful Mind” during which mathematician John Nash (played by Russell Crowe) applies game theory to dating. John Nash and his friends all found the same blonde woman to be the most beautiful. However, Nash came to the conclusion that no one would “win” if they all went for her, so they must each go for her brunette friends instead.

Real life doesn’t work quite the same way, but perhaps “equilibrium” or an optimal outcome for all parties can be reached through another method. Researchers sought to examine two forces of human mate selection-selection of “good genes” (e.g., preference for the best) and “self-seeking like” (e.g., preference for self-resemblance).

In support of sexual imprinting, participants who were primed with an image of their own parent (vs

Through a randomly selected sample of 36 couples, they found evidence of both forces. First of all, more attractive men and women were more likely to be together. Second of all, couples resembled each other in facial features. Therefore, people may achieve the best of both worlds by going for someone who looks like them, as self-morphs are uniquely attractive.

5. In addition to preferring one’s own face, people may be unknowingly seeking the face of their parent. Researchers suggest that young children may learn what a desirable partner should look like through a process called sexual imprinting-that is, parents may model for their children what their future partner should look like.

6. Emotional closeness with parents. Importantly, not everyone prefers partners who look like themselves or their parents. Studies have found individual differences in these preferences.

Researchers exposed heterosexual women to self-resembling male and female faces. Women who reported greater emotional closeness with their fathers were more likely to prefer self-resembling male faces (but not female faces). Self-reported emotional closeness with mothers did not influence preferences for self-resembling male or female faces. Earlier studies had found the same effects on women’s preferences for partners who look like their fathers. So although effects among men still need more investigation, individuals who are close to their parents may be prone to sexual imprinting (with the parent as the model) when it comes to their partners’ looks.

7. Similar social judgments. There may be more than what meets the eye when it comes to attraction to physically similar partners. Researchers found that the perceived personality of faces predicted both facial resemblance and the likelihood that a pair was an actual couple. The researchers suggest that couples may be similar in personality as a result of social cognitive judgments by others. In other words, people may pair with those who look like them because they have similar personalities due to others’ judgment of them. For instance, a person may grow to confirm others’ expectations of them (due to their looks) through the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sexual imprinting

8. Matching body type. While many studies have focused on facial similarities between couples, body type is another important factor in resemblance. Studies have in fact found that spouses are similar in their body mass index, weight, and height. This resemblance in body type may result from preferences for those who are similar or from shared lifestyles (in the case of weight).

9. Empathic mimicry. Sometimes couples don’t really look like each other-until later in life. Researchers collected images of spouses as newlyweds and 25 years later. They found that spouses became more similar in looks over time, and that this increase in similarity predicted greater relationship quality.

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