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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Why opposites attract

Most people seem to have a "type" to whom they're physically attracted. And it is often said that opposites attract. It seems that quite often, a person's "type" will be someone with whose genes they might combine with their own to produce good-looking offspring.

Therefore, people will often desire partners who will offset their own aesthetic flaws. Someone with a weak chin will be attracted to people with stronger chins, someone with a bulbous nose will be attracted to people with sharper noses, skinny will be attracted to strong, etc.

It's quite possible for two opposites, neither of whom is particularly good-looking, to produce attractive offspring. You see that all the time.

It make evolutionary sense that such an instinct -- attraction to opposites -- would have been bred into us. Genetic fitness is not purely a matter of having a lot of offspring yourself, it's a matter of having enough offspring who have their own offspring.


Anonymous said...

I don't know how true this is. I read a study that people are more likely to date people who are of a similar build to them, and anecdotal evidence shows this to be true: whenever I see couples in public, there's hardly ever any who are grossly different physically. You don't really see thin women who date fat men or vice versa. I don't think it's true that opposites attract. Definitely for magnets, but not people.

- Gethin

Anonymous said...

John--I've always thought that was probably the case. In my case, and for whatever reason, I have virtually no desire for any female except if she's Asian. And I wonder if that's because I am, according to the recent DNA tests, 100% Irish or at least Northern European. So my revised thinking is that since I'm so inbred I need to mix races in order not to dead end my genes. That, and maybe a little yellow fever:) Brian

John Craig said...

Gethin --
I was originally put something about build in the post, but took it out. When you see fatties with fatties, I think it's often a case of people settling for what they can get. And it may also be the case that fatties feel more comfortable with others who are overweight. And from what I've seen, really slender girls don't prefer really slender guys.

I did wonder a bit about how the Oedipal Complex fits into all of this: that men tend to be attracted to women who resemble their mothers, which would of course imply the opposite of what I'm saying. And I've seen that at work sometimes too.

In any case, I was thinking primarily of facial features, and while the rule certainly isn't ironclad, it is a trend i've noticed. (Or at least I think I have.)

John Craig said...

Brian --
Actually you are a good example of what I'm talking about: you have particularly sharp, angular features, so Asian features would offset yours.

As far as the inbreeding, I don't see you as an example of that. Plenty of pure Irish or pure Scandinavian people do fine; those countries did well for millennia with relatively little admixture. (Wait a sec; Ireland, I guess, had plenty of admixture from the English and the Vikings.)

jova said...

Your analysis was true for me. Being tall with a thin build I never dated tall thin women. All my girlfriends were between 5'1" and 5'6" with average weight. As a red-head I always dated Brunettes or girls with Black hair. I always liked southern European girls.

While 3 of my grandparents were Irish, one was German. My wife is from Chile and her paternal grandfather was Italian. she was surprised when we did 23andme and it indicated she was 12% Native American and 4% non-specified East Asian / Native American. She assumed she was 100% Southern European, but is about 80% Southern European (Iberian and Italian)

John Craig said...

Jova --
Thank you for that. Yes, those DNA analyses are fascinating. I certainly had a lot of surprises in mine. I think the East Asian DNA is close enough to Native American that mistakes occur; my mother is Japanese, and my father's ancestors came to the US in the late 18th century, so if there had been any Native American admixture I would probably have known of it. Yet I was allocated 1% native American by; I can't help but think that was a mistake, and that East Asian DNA was confused for Native American. Similarly, with your wife, I would assume that given her country of origin, that 4% "non-specified" is more likely to be Native American than East Asian.