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What makes us feel attracted to another person?

MADRID, 7 May.

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What makes us feel attracted to another person?


Often people are attracted to others with whom they share an interest, but that attraction may be based on the mistaken belief that those shared interests reflect a deeper and more fundamental similarity, that is, an essence, when sometimes they do not. , according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Our attraction to people who share our attributes is fueled by the belief that those shared attributes are driven by something deep within us: our very essence," explains study lead author Charles Chu, MD, associate professor at the Boston University Questrom School of Business.

Specifically, according to the researcher, people are attracted to people "with whom they agree on a political issue, share musical preferences or simply laugh at the same thing." "Not just because of those similarities, but because those similarities suggest something else: This person is essentially like me, and as such, shares my views on the world in general," he adds.

This thought process is driven by a type of psychological essentialism that applies specifically to people's ideas about the self and individual identity, according to Chu, who adds that people "essentialize" many things - from biological categories such as species animals to social groups such as race and gender - and it does so in virtually every human culture.

"To essentialize something is to define it by a set of deeply rooted and immutable properties, or an essence," Chu explains.

Recently, researchers have begun to focus on the category of self and have found that just as people essentialize other categories, they essentialize the self, according to Chu.

"Essentializing myself is defining who I am through a set of ingrained and immutable properties, and we all, especially in Western societies, do this to some degree. An auto-essentialist would then believe that what others can see in us and the way we behave are caused by that immutable essence", affirms the author.

To better understand how self-essentialism drives attraction between individuals, the researchers conducted a series of four experiments, research that has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In one of the experiments, 954 participants were asked their position on one of five randomly assigned social issues (abortion, capital punishment, gun ownership, animal experimentation, or physician-assisted suicide). Next, half of the participants read about another person who agreed with their position, while the other half read about a person who disagreed with their position.

All participants then filled out a questionnaire about the extent to which they believed they shared a general worldview with the fictional individual, their level of interpersonal attraction to that person, and their general beliefs about self-essentialism.

The researchers found that participants scoring high on self-essentialism were more likely to express attraction to the fictitious individual who matched their stance and to state that they shared a general perception of reality with him.

A similar experiment with 464 participants obtained the same results for a shared attribute as simple as the propensity of participants to overestimate or underestimate a number of colored dots on a series of computer slides. In other words, the belief in an essential self led people to assume that a single dimension of similarity was indicative of seeing the entire world in the same way, leading to greater attraction.

In another experiment, 423 participants were shown eight pairs of pictures and asked which of each pair they preferred. Based on their responses, participants were identified as admirers of the Swiss-German artist Paul Klee or the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. Half of each group of fans were told that artistic preference was part of their essence; to the other half, who had no relationship.

They were then all exposed to two hypothetical individuals, one of whom had the same artistic preference and one who differed. Participants who were told that artistic preference was connected to their essence were significantly more likely to express attraction to a hypothetical person with the same artistic preferences than those who were told that artistic preference had nothing to do with it. with its essence.

A final experiment classified 449 participants as fans of one of the two artists and then presented them with information about whether or not using one's own scent was helpful in perceiving other people. This time, one third of the participants were told that essentialist thinking could lead to inaccurate impressions of others, another third were told that essentialist thinking could lead to accurate impressions of others, and the final third were not told. gave no information.

Following these experiments, they found that participants who were told essentialist thinking could lead to accurate impressions of others were more likely to express attraction to and share reality with hypothetical individuals with similar artistic preferences.

Chu says that what surprised him most was discovering that something as small as a shared preference for an artist could lead people to perceive that another individual would see the world in the same way as they do. However, he cautioned that essentialist thinking can have its pros and cons.

"I think that whenever we make snap judgments or first impressions with very little information, we are likely to fall prey to self-essentialist reasoning," Chu says. "People are much more complex than we usually think, and we should be aware of it," she adds.