No matter how many romcoms tell us otherwise, our real-life dating habits confirm: we don’t want to date our opposites, and we’re all just narcissists who want to date ourselves. Over at numbers obsessed blog FiveThirtyEight today, statistician Emma Pierson analyzed the data from one million matches made on the online dating site eHarmony. Although 83 percent of us say we’re looking for someone who “complements” us rather than “resembles” us, who will be the yin to our yang, or something, Pierson found exactly the opposite to be true. Here are some highlights. (Note: the matches Pierson analyzed involve only heterosexual users, because eHarmony.)
- Women strongly prefer men who are similar to themselves. For all of the 102 possible traits eHarmony uses to match its users, women were always more likely to contact men with similar (not opposite) traits to themselves. And that includes not only obvious traits like age, education, and income, but also less obvious ones like creativity, or how many profile pictures a user includes in his profile.
- Men are more open-minded than women, but ultimately still favor women like themselves. Men were more willing to message women who were different from themselves for 80 percent of the 102 personality traits. But they still preferred matches who shared traits like height or attractiveness.
- Women are particularly drawn to men who describe themselves using similar language. Men, on the other hand, don’t care. According to Pierson, women showed a “small but highly statistically significant preference” for men who used similar adjectives to describe themselves, with terms like “intelligent,” “creative,” “physically fit,” and “funny” having the strongest effects.
- Korean men and women are the most likely to message each other. Korean men and women are much more likely to message a match who is also Korean than any other ethnicity, at 18.3 percent and 12.8 percent more likely, respectively. That’s double the percentage of Chinese men and women, who are the next most likely to prefer matches of the same ethnicity.
- African-American and white women are much more likely to message a match of the same ethnicity than their male counterparts. Actually, African-American men are the least likely group to message a woman of their own race. And white men are only 0.1 percent more likely to message a woman if she’s also white.
Of course, Pierson is not the first person to shed light on our collective tendency to favor romantic partners who resemble us in some way — multiple studies have suggested we’re most attracted to those who are just like us. But some studies, like this one out of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, have shown we’re actually less picky about who we date than we say we are in our dating profiles, suggesting we don’t really know what we’re looking for in a partner, which, true. In any case, Pierson points out an important thing to remember: eHarmony, like many online dating sites, is intentionally skewed to show users the profiles of matches who are similar to themselves. Considering eHarmony is still in business and all, could it really be that all we want in a partner is a mirror?