A relatively simple question, with a fairly simple answer. All of us look like our biological parents, and there are no two ways about it. Our facial features change over time; however, we always bear a resemblance to our parents. Of course, we would since we share their DNA!
When it comes to choosing a partner in your life, looks matter more than you think they do. The research reported in 2010 in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin stated that we are most attracted to a potential partner who resembles either ourselves or our parents.
This piece of information can be quite surprising for most people. However, scientifically it is true! Most of it is done subconsciously, of course. When picking a partner or even just rating someone’s attractiveness, we are more likely to choose someone who resembles our opposite-sex parent.
This means that if you are a woman, you are more likely to choose a partner who somewhat resembles your father, and if you are a man, you will find yourself more attracted to women who resemble your mother.
A small interpretation we can make out of this is that the incest taboos which we know all too well maybe social constructs. It might just be the case that since we are naturally attracted to those who resemble our opposite-sex parents, or even those who reach us, our brains might innately be wired to find incest to be quite natural and not a taboo.
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Do Opposites Attract?
We have all heard this phrase one too many times- opposites attract. But then again, we have also heard that a couple must have compatibility to sustain a long term relationship. With these two contradictory statements, it can often become difficult to assess what kind of people attracts us.
Opposites indeed attract. However, it may not be enough to keep you in a sustainable relationship. When it comes about building and nurturing a healthy relationship with a partner, we almost always find solace in those who are closer to our nature, rather than wildly different from us.
But while this tells us something about our nature, does the same rule apply to when we initially get attracted to a potential partner’s look?
Turns out, not at all.
In the case of physical appearances, it is noted that most people tend to gravitate towards those who look similar to our parents or us.
A company researched Reykjavik called deCODE Genetics, where marriages between third cousins were observed for a lengthy period (about 200 years). It was noted that the results of these marriages between third cousins or fourth cousins produced far more children as well as grandchildren, compared to marriages between two completely unrelated individuals.
More often than not, a variety of genetic mutations and inbreeding problems are noticed in children produced by siblings, first or even second cousins. However, in the case of these couples who were third or fourth cousins, none of these inbreeding issues was reported.
In the case of couples who were completely unrelated and were genetically far removed from one another, certain genetic incompatibilities are noticed to occur.
When it comes to third or fourth cousins, however, the couples tend to be far more genetically compatible without facing any of the inbreeding complications and issues which are seen with siblings or first cousins.
Although what these couples did cannot necessarily be called ‘incest,’ it is still quite unorthodox.
The Westermarck Effect states that individuals who grow up together or near each other are inherently predisposed not to want to engage in sexual activity after reaching sexual maturity. This is a concept which most of us are familiar with and tend to believe.
However, this study conducted by Edvard Westermarck, a Finnish anthropologist, is far more consistent with another concept. This concept suggests that for people living close to one another, sexual attraction to each other may be diminished or even absent. However, the degree of the individual’s resemblance is not diminished.
The degree to which a couple resembles one another, or their opposite-sex parents, could be a decisive factor in the satisfaction levels in a relationship. But not just that, it can also be noted that our brains inherently search for potential mates who resemble our parents or us.
What Does This Tell Us?
A variety of research and studies have been conducted for as long as we know- all of them trying to figure out who do we look like, whose nature do we tend to imbibe more, whether our genetics have more to do with our personality or the environment in which we were raised.
Plenty of studies have also been conducted among couples- their compatibilities and their attraction and satisfaction levels with one another.
When it comes to choosing a partner, it is crucial to look beyond the superficial levels. Their personality, nature, traits and habits, values, and outlook toward life all matter when it comes to the optimal compatibility and satisfaction levels.
However, the very first time we notice someone and feel that initial attraction towards them is not solely dependent on how ‘good looking’ we think they are. It is far more subconscious than that.
Without even knowing it, we are far more receptive to those individuals who tend to look more like us, or our parents. This, however, does not conclude that we are attracted to people who we are genetically related to. It merely states that when looking for partners, we search for familiarity and resemble in facial features, probably because we find comfort in understanding.
The reason why we feel more attracted to people who resemble our parents, or we can be seen by the research conducted among the Icelandic couples. As human beings, our innate priority is to spawn the best offspring.
When it comes to that, the study concludes that couples who share specific genetic compatibility (third and fourth cousins) bred the most children and grandchildren. Hence, our innate attraction!