Movies often tell us it doesn’t take much to fall in love—some stolen glances, two violins announcing the magic of love, and the ‘that’s my favourite band too’. In real life too, when you find yourself ‘clicking’ with a stranger who is also a fan of the author you love, you suddenly find yourself drawn to them. Have you ever wondered why?
Well, according to research it’s called the similarity-attraction effect: we usually like people who are like us. Recently, a new study has found out why. A series of studies by Charles Chu of Questrom School of Business and Organizations, Boston University (BU) and Brian Lowery of Stanford Graduate School of Business found that it was self-essentialist reasoning, wherein people imagine they have some deep inner core or essence that shapes who they are, according to a post by BU.
The researchers discovered that when someone believes that an essence drives an interest, likes, and dislikes, they tend to assume it’s the same for others. So, when they find someone with the same interest, they think the person will also have the same worldview. The findings were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
However, the study also suggests that this rush to embrace someone with a shared interest or two is based on flawed thinking and that it could be a restricting factor with whom we find a connection. For instance, similar to likes, people also tend to dislike those whom we don’t think are like them or don’t like certain music, film or person.
“We are all so complex,” Chu said in the post. “But we only have full insight into our own thoughts and feelings, and the minds of others are often a mystery to us. What this work suggests is that we often fill in the blanks of others’ minds with our own sense of self and that can sometimes lead us into some unwarranted assumptions.”
Beyond the sphere of romance and connections, the findings can also be applied to how societies, at large, work. Such self-essentialist reasoning could influence how resources are distributed or whom people consider worthy of their support, Chu further explained. He therefore advocates for not judging someone during the first meeting or conversation if they don’t seem similar to you.