The Matching Hypothesis Strikes Again

What happens when people “marry outside their looks” (that is, when you marry someone who is obviously much more attractive than you are)? There’s an interesting and humorous article on page 86 of the May 7, 2007 issue of Time magazine that discusses just this. The title is “The Last Taboo”. Or, as the author puts it, “Marrying a few degrees up or down the hotness scale.” Recall that part of episode 4 (“On Birds Flocking and Opposites Attracting”) is about what psychologists often refer to as the matching hypothesis – the observation that we all seem to have a sense of how attractive we are and how attractive other people are and we tend to marry people who we deem to be at about our same “level”.

Here are a couple other examples of seeming mismatches:

  • They’re now divorced but Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett

  • Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt

  • Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth Jane (Harper) Kucinich

  • Episode 4 discusses the matching hypothesis in more detail.
  • Episode #4: On Birds Flocking and Opposites Attracting: the data on Love

    Do Birds of a Feather Flock Together or do Opposites Attract? That’s the question we examine this week on the first video episode of The Psych Files.

    One of my favorite topics (I suppose many people’s favorite topics) has to do with how romantic relationships begin and why some relationships flourish while others don’t. I had one of my classes conduct a survey on the topic. This video has 3 parts: 1) background info on 3 attraction theories, 2) a quick overview of the survey my class and I created, and 3) a look at the results. I hope you find this video informative.


    Resources on Attraction

    • One of the persistent challenges for psychology students who are studying research and statistics is keeping it interesting. High School and college students are interested in why people are attracted to one another and why relationships last (and don’t last), so why not create a survey on this topic?
    • The theories of attraction I discuss in this video are:
      • Proximity (sometimes called Propinquity): you tend to form relationships with people you have frequent contact with
      • Attitude Similarity: this is the birds of a feather idea – you tend to like people who are similar to you in important ways

      • Matching Hypothesis: you look for a romantic partner who you believe is about as attractive as you think you are
      • Equity: we like fairness in just about all things, including our relationships, so you will be more satisfied to the extent that you believe that you and your partner give about equally to the relationship

    • Feel free to download and use the Attraction Survey if you’d like. Click here to down a Microsoft Word version of the survey.
    • Click here to download a Microsoft Excel file containing the data.
    • Click here to download a csv file containing the data.