Dating people like your parent
Northumbria University, Newcastle provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
The Conversation is funded by Barclays Africa and seven universities, including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Rhodes University and the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, and South Africa.
When you ask people to judge the similarities between heterosexual couples and their parents from photos, a fascinating picture emerges.
Women tend on average to pick partners whose faces look a bit like their fathers’, while men often choose partners who slightly resemble their mothers.
One possibility is that if you are attracted to people who look like your parents, then chances are you may get a crush on distant relatives.
This might give you better chances of more healthy children, and so this behaviour persists.
Resemblance doesn’t stop at faces – you can also see subtle similarities on average between partner and parent height, hair colour, eye colour, ethnicity and even the degree of body hair. We tend to look like our parents, so how do we know that people aren’t just picking a partner who resembles themselves?
We know that such self-resemblance influences partner choice.
Like most people, you probably want a partner who is kind, intelligent and attractive.
But if all else is equal, then that comfortable feeling of familiarity might be enough to get a relationship underway, or to maintain feelings of trust in a relationship.
In science, we always like to see replications with different samples, methodologies and research groups before we generalise findings too much.
So far though, the intriguing pattern of this early study suggests that there may be complex developmental patterns underlying how we construct our idea of an ideal partner.
Scientists have long known that species including birds, mammals and fish pick mates that look similar to their parents. For example, if a goat mother looks after a sheep baby, or a sheep mother looks after a goat baby, then those babies grow up to try to mate with the species of their foster mother, instead of their own.