Perceived, not actual, similarity predicts initial attraction in a live romantic context: Evidence from the speed-dating paradigm

Authors


  • Natasha D. Tidwell, Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University; Paul W. Eastwick, Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University; Eli J. Finkel, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University.

    We thank Jacob Matthews for his masterful programming of the Northwestern Speed-dating Study and the Northwestern Speed-Dating Team for conducting the studies themselves. We also thank David Kenny for his assistance with the social relations model analyses.

Natasha D. Tidwell, Texas A&M University, Department of Psychology, 4235 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4235, e-mail: ndtidwell@gmail.com or Paul W. Eastwick, Texas A&M University, Department of Psychology, 4235 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4235, e-mail: eastwick@tamu.edu.

Abstract

The “similarity-attraction” effect stands as one of the most well-known findings in social psychology. However, some research contends that perceived but not actual similarity influences attraction. The current study is the first to examine the effects of actual and perceived similarity simultaneously during a face-to-face initial romantic encounter. Participants attending a speed-dating event interacted with ∼12 members of the opposite sex for 4 min each. Actual and perceived similarity for each pair were calculated from questionnaire responses assessed before the event and after each date. Data revealed that perceived, but not actual, similarity significantly predicted romantic liking in this speed-dating context. Furthermore, perceived similarity was a far weaker predictor of attraction when assessed using specific traits rather than generally.

Ancillary