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  • Writer's pictureSimi Hanspal

Opposite or Similar personality traits, what attracts you?

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

The Yin to my Yang

There’s light and dark, day and night, good and evil, yin and yang. Yin and yang or yin-yang refers to a concept originating in ancient Chinese philosophy where opposite forces are seen as interconnected and counterbalancing.

So, remember the Disney fairytales?

The Beauty & the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and our all time favorite, Cinderella? What is common in them is the fact that they all perpetuate the idea that the ideal partner for us is someone who is a completely opposite in qualities than we have. Not just Disney, but even our films are saturated with this idea where the bad ass hero always gets the docile heroine. When we are fed on a steady diet of such bull crap – how dare we think any different? And yes, then there’s science to back it all up "Law of Attraction" that says "Opposites attract". But for God’s sakes they are talking about magnets Where human relationships are concerned it's altogether a different ball game.

For decades, psychologists and sociologists have pointed out that the idea that opposite personality traits attract is a myth. In fact, almost all the evidence suggests that opposites very rarely attract. The psychologist Donn Byrne was one of the first to study the impact of similarity on the early stages of relationships. To do so, he developed a method known as the “phantom stranger technique”.

What is Phantom stranger technique?

The procedure begins with participants completing a questionnaire about their attitudes on a variety of topics, such as the use of nuclear weapons. Next, they take part in a “person-perception” phase, where they evaluate a (non-existent) person based on their responses to the same questionnaire.

Byrne manipulated the degree of similarity between the participant and the phantom stranger. His results showed that participants reported feeling more attracted to people who held similar personality traits and attitudes. In fact, the greater the degree of attitudinal similarity, the greater the attraction and liking.

To explain his findings, Byrne argued that most of us have a need for a logical and consistent view of the world. We tend to favor ideas and beliefs that support and reinforce that consistency. People who agree with us validate our attitudes and so to satisfy this need, whereas people who disagree with us tend to stimulate negative feelings – anxiety, confusion and maybe even anger – that lead to repulsion.

In the mid-1950s, the Sociologist - Robert Francis Winch argued that, when it comes to our personalities, what matters is not similarity but complementarity. Based on his studies of spouses, he suggested that individuals would be attracted to others who possess personality traits that they lack. An assertive woman, for example, would be attracted to a submissive man while an extroverted man would be attracted to an introverted woman.

Researchers believe that we are attracted to someone who allows the greatest potential of self-expansion. This could only come from someone with similar personality traits who shares our ideology than hold contrasting views. You will see couples disagreeing on a topic and then aligning themselves to a consensus which suggests that they share the similar viewpoint.

So, if you’re single and looking, the advice from decades of scientific research is simple: stop believing that the right match for you is someone who has the opposite personality traits and qualities to you. Opposites almost never attract and you’re much better off focusing on people who have similar personality traits and attitudes to yourself, but who offer some potential for self-expansion.

Again, it's complicated. But here's a thought: It has been said that the happiest couples never have the same character—"they just have the best understanding of their differences".

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