“They’re just not my type.” Whether during private conversation with a trusted friend, or while watching a favourite romantic comedy, we’ve all heard these words spoken about a potential suitor. But for all its prevalence in conversations about modern-day relationships, hardly anyone has investigated whether “my type” actually exists.
Recent work has suggested that we do have go-to preferences when it comes to demographic and physical characteristics such as education, age difference, hair colour, and height. However, no previous research has provided strong evidence that we consistently seek a particular personality type across partners. Now, a group of researchers have found just that – and if you’re not sure what your type is, you might want to look in a mirror.
In a newly published study, researchers used the longitudinal German Family Panel study to assess where more than 12 000 survey participants fitted with the “big five” personality traits – openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Over nine years, the researchers tracked the relationship status of these people, who had to pop the rather unusual question to partners of whether they would mind filling out the same personality questionnaire for the good of science.
After nine years and thousands of questionnaires, the researchers ended up with 332 participants who had been in relationships with at least two different romantic partners who were both happy to participate in the study. That’s a pretty hefty drop in sample size, but more than enough to draw firm conclusions from the data.
The results showed that the current partners of participants described their personalities in ways that were similar to former partners. So while people tend to believe that their personality preferences change over time, it appears that people do have a specific “type” that persists across relationships. In most cases, similarity was only tested across two partners, but for the 29 participants who had more than two willing partners, the results were the same.