A recent study challenges the common belief that “opposites attract”, finding that in general, people do share similar behavioural and personality traits to their friends and partners.
Called “Birds of a feather do flock together: behaviour and language-based personality assessment reveals personality homophily among couples and friends”, the study uses a three-part methodology to analyse personality traits.
Psychologists Youyou Wu, David Stillwell, H. Andrew Schwartz and Michal Kosinski first looked into the behaviour-based personalities of 236,251 US participants, by looking at their responses to a personality questionnaire and their Facebook likes.
Each person had to have at least 20 likes on their Facebook profile.
In the second group, researchers analysed 59,547 US participants’ language-based personalities, by looking at their personality questionnaire and Facebook statuses (they had to have posted at least 500 words in status updates).
Finally, the researchers looked at the existence of personality homophily – studying 231,707 participants who had at least one friend or romantic partner within the sample.
With this final group, the researchers wanted to see whether friends’ Facebook likes and statuses bore any similarities.
Each person was given a personality score based on their answers to a questionnaire, their Facebook likes or Facebook statuses.
The researchers said this was down to the “reference group effect”, whereby participants’ answers are reflective of their personality and behaviour in relation to how they see other people’s.
For example, someone may not think they are particularly empathetic when comparing themselves to their friends or partners.
Interestingly, the researchers found a strong link between people’s behaviour and language, as friends and partners tended to like similar Facebook content and used similar language within statuses.
The study revealed participants’ similarities to their friends and partners in relation to five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
Stillwell explains: “We found that, on self-report questionnaires, couples are no more similar than strangers, but when we measured personality using digital behaviour – Facebook Likes and status updates – couples were far more similar than chance.
“So, people date and befriend others who are like themselves, and birds of a feather do flock together after all.”
To read the full study please click here.