A new study by researchers at the University of Melbourne has found that most of us have trouble choosing the perfect partner.
The researchers looked at dating sites and found that for almost all of us, we find someone attractive, or at least someone who matches our personality traits.
But we often struggle to pick out someone who is different from ourselves, says study co-author Dr Anne Smith.
The research is published in the journal PLOS ONE.
It suggests that the reason we find ourselves attracted to someone is that we are not looking for an exact match, but rather looking for a partner who is not in the same category.
Dr Smith says that our attraction to people in our own group may be a consequence of our evolutionary past when people were trying to be as socially compatible as possible.
We are attracted to people who look similar to us, who we share our interests and values, who share our genes and have similar interests, says Dr Smith.
Dr Adam Rennie, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the National University of Singapore, says that while there are many people who are attracted solely to people of the same sex, this may be because they have evolved in a more homogenous environment where people with similar genes and social preferences are more common.
‘There’s no biological reason why people would be attracted to one sex or the other,’ Dr Rennies research assistant Dr Elizabeth Gebreselassie says.
Dr Rellie says that people who can look and feel different from one another may not be able to find a partner that fits into the same way.
‘This is an evolutionary adaptation,’ he says.
‘We have a tendency to look for a certain kind of person in other people and not in ourselves.’
But the researchers say there is no need to fear that we can’t find a suitable partner for everyone.
‘People are not just looking for one person and one thing,’ Dr Smith explains.
‘They’re looking for the perfect match.’
Dr Smith is currently completing her PhD at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the Australian National University.
She says she is interested in the evolutionary foundations of the human mating system.
‘I think the human system has evolved over thousands of years,’ she says.’
But the way we get mates has not always been the way people would have wanted.’
Our evolutionary history has given us the ability to mate for many years and for many different reasons.’
In a recent study published in Nature Communications, Dr Smith and her colleagues looked at the relationships of hundreds of thousands of people to find out how human couples are choosing to date and mate.
They found that people often search for a ‘match of the mind’, rather than the ‘match the heart’.
In this way, they can choose to have a match that is different to themselves.
The study also found that when it comes to romantic partners, it is the woman’s personality that is important, not her genes or genetic similarity to her partner.
Dr Zakia Tannenbaum, an evolutionary psychologist at the Universities of St Andrews and Melbourne, says there are plenty of similarities between the human mind and our own.
‘In terms of the evolutionary origins of our brains, I think we know a lot more about it than people think about,’ she explains.
Dr Tann-enbaum says that the brain can be a very powerful tool for people to connect with others.
‘You don’t need to have brains in order to understand that there’s a connection between you and your partner, but it does mean that you can connect with other people in a way that you wouldn’t normally be able,’ she adds.
Dr Nima Srivastava, a researcher at the Centre for Behavioural Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University, says the new research provides ‘groundbreaking insight’ into human mating.
‘It shows us that people can use other people’s personalities to find mates,’ she tells News Corp. ‘So it’s not just about whether you have a good personality, it’s about whether there are people that you would connect with.’
Dr Tanna said that the researchers’ work suggests that we humans are able to create a match of the heart, because it helps us feel connected to our partner.
‘What they found was that people are able, and are looking for, someone with a similar personality type,’ she said.
‘The idea that we’re trying to match our genes is really important.
Our evolutionary history gives us the capacity to do this.’
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the University’s Office of Population and Human Health.
The ABC has asked Professor Smith and Dr Smith to comment.
If you or someone you know is struggling to find the right person, contact the National Sexual Health Service on 13 11 14.
Originally published as A new theory for why humans love each other