Popular psychology encompasses claims that people hold on to, yet they are not backed by empirical evidence (Baumeister and Bushman 393). One of the common claims of such nature is that “in romantic relationships, the opposites attract.” In other words, people believe that two individuals with opposite personality traits are attracted to each other more than individuals with similar personality traits. Despite the fact that many people believe in the claim, it does not seem to be based on any scientific research. A study conducted in 2009 by Dijkstra on 760 young people who were members of a certain online dating site found that 85.7 percent of the respondents preferred to have romantic partners with opposite personality traits (Lilienfeld et al. 171). The purpose of this paper is to present an analysis of the identified claim, with regard to how it is portrayed in real life and how it relates to psychological concepts and theory.
Representation of the Claim in Real Life
The notion that “opposites attract” is widely portrayed in love stories in TV shows, magazines, novels, internet sites and films. Most of the love stories in these sources portray people with opposite personality traits falling in passionate love. A good example is a book titled The Opposites Attract, in which the author, Tim Lahaye, claims that people with the same temperament are not compatible and do not attract each other (Lilienfeld et al. 172). A 2007 TV comedy titled Knocked Up portrays Katherine Heigl and the starring, Seth Rogen as individuals with contrasting traits, yet they end up falling in passionate love (Lilienfeld et al. 172). The same is evident in a well known Hollywood movie titled The Opposite Attract, in which a man called Joe Cantgetadate falls in romantic love with a woman called Candice Blondebombshell, yet they have sharply contrasting traits (Lilienfeld et al. 172).
Psychological Concepts and Theories
In contrast to what the claim discussed above, psychological theories of intimate relationships suggest that individuals with similar personal traits are more likely to develop and maintain romantic relationships than individuals with contrasting personality traits. For instance, the matching hypothesis posits that individuals tend to pair up with romantic partners who have similar interests (Baumeister and Bushman 394). This happens to friends and lovers. According to the hypothesis, the inclination to pair up with somebody with similar traits is rooted in human psyche. The self-monitoring concept also suggests that people naturally pair up with friends or lovers with similar interests. The concept stipulates that each human being seeks to maximize social situations through self-monitoring and interacting with people who have similar interests. In short, the existing theories and concepts refute the claim that the opposites attract (Baumeister and Bushman 394). These theories are more reliable than the claim since there is vast scientific evidence to support them, unlike the claim, which is not backed by scientific evidence. For instance, a study conducted by Stanchfield and Gold in 2004 indicated that people who have similar personality traits are more likely to form close and lasting relationships than people who do not have similar traits (Lilienfeld et al. 173).
The claim that “opposites attract” is not true and thus, it can only be regarded as a myth. In addition to lack of scientific findings to support this claim, there is vast evidence that proves the contrary. The available psychological theories and concepts are in contrast to the claim. The claim, just like other pop psychology claims, is applied in numerous real life situations, but it does not represent the reality.
Baumeister, Roy F. and Brad Bushman. Social Psychology and Human Nature, Brief. New York: Cengage Learning, 2013
Lilienfeld, Scott O., Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio and Barry L. Beyerstein. 50 Great Myths of
Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior. California: John Wiley & Sons, 2011. Print