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Scientists: Opposites don't attract

Pitt and Aniston
Actor Brad Pitt and wife Jennifer Aniston have similar looks.

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LONDON, England -- The theory that opposites attract is a myth, say a group of U.S. scientists who have found men and women are more likely to choose partners who are similar -- or they believe are similar -- to themselves.

Both sexes are most likely to attract individuals who look like them and have the same wealth, social status and share the same outlook towards family and fidelity, the new research suggests.

Previously, it had widely been thought that women who saw themselves as very attractive preferred socially dominant men, and men who were confident socially and economically looked for the most attractive women.

But the new research indicates that an ideal match is more important and marriage between equivalent people has the best chance of success, say the scientists from Cornell University in New York.

They believe too many differences between a couple causes instability. If one partner is better looking or has a higher social status, they may be tempted to "trade up" and find a better quality match, say the scientists.

Between similar matches there was less chance of breaking apart and therefore more stability to bring up children.

The results were based on questionnaires by 978 students aged between 18 and 24. Respondents were asked to rank the importance they placed on 10 attributes in a long-term partner.

The students were then asked to rate themselves based on the same attributes.

The attributes were grouped into four "evolutionary relevant" categories which were:

• Wealth and status

• Family commitment

• Physical appearance

• Sexual fidelity

The scientist found men and women who rated themselves highly were more selective than those who did not. Attributes that individuals rated highly in others, they also rated as important in themselves.

"Human mate choice in Western society seems to be based on a preference for long-term partners who are similar to one's perception of self across a number of evolutionary relevant categories of traits," said Peter Buston and Stephen Emlen who carried out the research.

Agassi and Graf
Tennis stars Andre Agassi and wife Steffi Graf.

The findings explain why marriages between similar matches were more widespread and successful that non-matching couples.

"From the public's perspective, our results suggest that individuals seeking stable long-term relationships should not seek the highest quality partner available, but should simply look for partners who are similar to themselves," they said.

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists Monday.


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