I’m sure you’ve seen those comments on celebrities’ social media posts of them and their partner that are like: “Omg is it just me or do you guys look like you could be siblings?!” And I’m sure you’ve probably also looked at celebrity couples and thought: yup, they could be related – I know that’s what I think when I see photos of Barbara Palvin and Dylan Sprouse, or Lily-Rose Depp and Timothee Chalamet. So, what’s going on here?
Why are we attracted to the people that we’re attracted to? This might be something you ask yourself when you’re starting to catch feelings for someone (or maybe it’s just me?). There are quite a few factors involved, and one of them is similarity.
Despite the popular belief that ‘opposites attract,’ this is not the case. We like people who are like us; we are more likely to like people who hold the same attitudes and values as we do, people who have similar levels of education as us, and basically just people who are of the same demographic as us.
In fact, research has shown that we even like the people who have the same initials in their names as us or a name that’s similar to our own, more.
Why is this? Well, when you’re discussing your opinions about something with your friends and they agree with an attitude that you hold, that can make you feel pretty validated and good about your own beliefs.
This remains true for traits that are considered to be negative, too. So that means that if you’re someone who’s usually pretty withdrawn and antisocial, you may find yourself liking someone else who’s also like that.
Now, back to why some celebrity couples look so similar. The ‘matching hypothesis’ theory suggests that people tend to pair up with others who are equally as physically attractive as them. This hypothesis isn’t limited to who you’re romantically attracted to – it applies to your friends as well.
Of course, this hypothesis isn’t completely determinative of who you find attractive and why you end up getting together with them. I’m sure that while we can think of a lot of people in relationships with others who are the same level of physical attractiveness as them, we can probably all think of plenty of examples where the people in a relationship are nowhere near as attractive as each other (*cough* Beyoncé and Jay-Z).
Unsurprisingly, the longer you get to know someone as acquaintances or as friends, the more attractive they may become to you. However, there will also be more discrepancy in how attractive they are perceived to be by everyone else who knows that person.
Why is there a discrepancy? Well, perhaps you saw that person lend their lecture notes to someone to help them, but your friend overheard that person yelling at someone else about a minor issue.
Your view of that person would be more positive, and you’d be more likely to perceive them as more attractive compared to your friend who overheard them yelling at someone.
In a study looking at dating and married couples, researchers found that those couples who did not know each other at all before dating did tend to be very similar in their levels of attractiveness. But, those who knew each other long before they started dating had very little similarity as to how attractive they were.
When people knew each other for about a year before dating, there was almost no correlation between their attractiveness.
It might seem like a strange occurrence, but it makes sense when you consider the fact that these people are getting to know each other more over time. When they rate the other person’s attractiveness, physical appearances aren’t the only factor that’s weighted. Their personality, traits, and hobbies among other things, are also at play.
So, it’s not that ground-breaking that people who look alike tend to be romantically involved. We like people who look like us, and we also just like people who are like us.
Take a good look at your friend groups and the people you’re romantically attracted to. You’re subconsciously drawn to them for a reason. Maybe one of those reasons is because your names all start with the same letter.
For further reading
Eastwick, P. W. & Hunt, L. L. (2014) – Relational mate value: Consensus and uniqueness in romantic evaluations.
Hunt, L. L., Eastwick, P. W., & Finkel, E. J. (2015) – Leveling the playing field: Longer acquaintance predicts reduced assortative mating on attractiveness.
Jones, J. T., Pelham, B. W., Carvallo, M., & Mirenberg, M. C. (2004) – How do I love thee? Let me count the Js: Implicit egotism and interpersonal attraction.
Simpson, J. & Harris, B. (1994) – Interpersonal attraction.