Do all of your exes look alike? Or did they all work in sales? And what about that ex of yours — he had a thing for brunettes with glasses, right? He definitely had a type, but do you, too?
Absolutely, according to a recent study. But type isn’t exactly what we think it is.
“What is interesting is that they found, yes, we have a type. But when we think about the idea of having a type, we think it is internal, only our unique preferences. That is not really true,” said Christine Whelan, clinical professor in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who was not involved in the study.
Paul Eastwick and his colleagues performed three experiments to examine romantic type for the paper recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
In one study, researchers asked 97 participants to show them Facebook profiles of their exes. The researchers analyzed the pictures for attractiveness, confidence and masculinity/femininity to see if there were similarities between each person’s exes.
The results? People do tend to date people who have the same mix of qualities.
“There is a sorting effect and we are seeing that," said Eastwick, associate professor of psychology at University of California, Davis and an author of the study. "“Attractive people are very good ... at attracting other attractive people.”
In the second study, the researchers used longitudinal data from 574 people who provided information about at least two exes. The researchers looked at how participants matched with their partners in seven areas:
- Educational aspirations
They found something intriguing: Location influenced type.
“Type was based on where I live and who I have the good fortune to date,” said Eastwick. “It is driven by the people you encounter.”
If you find yourself dating intellectuals who shun religion that is because those people live near you. But people aren't dating the same narrow type, such as woodworkers or single parents.
“If I look within your particular niche, you do not have a type within that milieu,” he said. “You are not consistently dating the slightly-educated jock character or film-studies type.”
In the third study, the researchers used data from a website (which no longer exists) where women could rate male friends, crushes, hook ups, relatives, ex-boyfriend or their current partner on qualities such as appearance, humor, manners, ambition, commitment, sexual satisfaction and overall best qualities.
Here is where preferences shine. There was very little consistency in how women rated the men.
“People just didn’t agree,” Eastwick said. “That fits with the general sort of close relationships ethos … Some people work really well together; some work terribly.”
Researchers are no closer to understanding why.
“The study is telling us there is no one answer to why we choose the partner that we do,” Whelan said.
But she says experts do understand why people have types.
“Types gives us a sense of security. We feel safer partnering with someone who is a known quantity,” she said.
For those looking for a type, she offered this advice.
“Choose where you hang out and where you live and go to school with partner selection in mind,” she said. “Proximity matters.”