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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
BELL, N. & WILFORD, M (1998). The Relationship Between Similarity of Intelligence and Attraction. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 1. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 28, 2023 .

The Relationship Between Similarity of Intelligence and Attraction
MWSC Psychology

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
Previous studies on similarity and attraction have shown that the more similar someone is, the more they will like that person. This study was done to see if people with a perceived intelligence similar to their own were more attracted to that person. We did a same sex/opposite sex study. Participating in the study were 30 (15 females, 15males) introductory or intermediate psychology students at Missouri Western State College in St Joseph, Missouri. Each participant was given a questionnaire describing two personality types. Each questionnaire had a description of an intelligent male and an unintelligent female or vice versa (unintelligent male and an intelligent female). A two by two analysis of variance was done to analyze the data: the primary considerations were the sex of the person in the descriptive paragraph, their perceived intelligence, and how similar they were to the person filling out the questionnaire. There were no significant relationships found.

Past research on similarity and attraction has all been fairly consistent. The studies have indicated that the more similar someone is to another person, the more he/she will tend to like that person (Buss, 1985; Davis, 1985; and Rubin, 1973). According to the similarity-attraction hypothesis, the assumed or perceived similarity serves as a predictor for the attraction response (Byrne and Nelson, 1965). Individuals only enter into and maintain a relationship with people whom they perceive as supporting their own self-concept (Bailey and Kelly, 19840).

An analysis of interpersonal relationship shows that there are three important perceptions that help to form such a relationship: 1) how individuals perceive themselves; 2) how an individual perceives the other person; and 3) how an individual believes the other person perceives him/her. Individuals enter into dating relationships and maintain a relationship based on if the other person was perceived as supporting their own self-concept (Bailey ad Kelly, 1984).

In an article by LaPrelle, Hoyle, Insko, and Bernthal (1990), two researchers, Byrne and Nelson (1965), believed to find a positive linear relationship between attitude similarity and interpersonal attraction, and therefore termed the effect the "law of attraction". They explained further that the similarity-attraction relationship, as lawful as it may seem, has some confounding challenges.

The inconsistency associated with similarity and attraction appears when individuals don`t prefer those who are similar. Physical attractiveness is one researched example. The problem arises when assuming that individuals will like the unlikable and desire the undesirable if their own characteristics are unlikable or undesirable (Byrne and Nelson, 1965).

However, despite some exceptions of consistency, there appears to be ample theoretical reason that desirability in the form of similarity is very well the mediator between the relationship of similarity and attraction. Empirical studies done by Wetzel and Insko (1982) provide this support in what they consider to be cognitive consistency among individuals.

Another variable of research within the relationship of similarity and attraction that has been studied is attitude. Research has shown that collegiate couples, more often then not, pick individuals who have similar attitudes to their own when choosing a friend or someone to date. Similarities and differences between attitudes are more likely to be a condition for initial attraction to someone (Kim, Duyssen and John Teske, 1993).

Researchers have examined the sex differences in the effects of similarity on opposite-sex attraction. A study on sex differences related to similarity and physical attractiveness by Feingold (1991), showed results indicating that women valued similarity more than men and men valued physical attractiveness more than similarity. In an initial encounter, women pay more attention to a person`s attitudes and interest than men do because women are less preoccupied with appearance. Feingold`s study also indicated that men perceive attractiveness as being more associated with success than women do (Jones and Adams, 1982).

Social contact with members of the same and opposite sex increases when personality factors are perceived to be more likable, friendly, confident, sensitive and flexible. These personality factors also have to be congruent with the individuals own perceived self-concept. Personality factors seem to be more closely associated with social relations for women than men. These personality traits are perceived to be higher in individuals with higher academic performance or higher perceived intelligence (Krebs and Adinolfe, 1975).

Previous studies have done much research on the relationship between similarity and attraction, but have not put much effort into researching the are of how similarity of intelligence traits relates to attraction. The purpose of our study is to measure how similarity of intelligence traits effects people`s attractiveness. This study will also evaluate whether or not sex differences exist in the perception of both male and female descriptions, and how those differences come about.


Forty questionnaires were given to college students on the Missouri Western State College campus in St. Joseph, Missouri. The college students were enrolled in and attended either an introductory or intermediate psychology class. There were 15 females and 15 males ranging in age from 18-25 years old. The mean age was 21 years old. There were 15 participants in each condition and each participant had two different conditions. To control for the participants who were over the age of 25, we discarded the data from those 10 participants. We used a large sample size to control for any participants realizing the objective of the study. All participants received extra credit points for participating in the study and they were all treated in accordance with the "Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Conduct" (American Psychological Association, 1992).

To conduct this study we composed two different questionnaires. Each were comprised of descriptions of two different individuals. Two personality type conditions were described on each questionnaire. We conducted a same sex/opposite sex study. There were two different male personality conditions and two different female personality conditions. Each participant received a questionnaire that had a description of an intelligent female and an unintelligent male or vise versa, a description of an intelligent male and an unintelligent female. There was a short list of questions to assess similarity of intelligence and attraction. The participants were asked to provide some demographic information indicating their gender and age. Except for the demographic questions, all questions on this survey were rated on a six-point scale.

Questionnaires were handed out to the participants in introductory and intermediate psychology classes and were given instructions as a group. The participants were told that this study was looking at whether or not someone`s personality could be determined from a descriptive paragraph. They were told that participation in this study would be anonymous and they may choose not to participate or could withdraw at any time. Upon completion, the participants were told the actual purpose of the study. The data was put into the computer SPSS program using a two by two design ANOVA.


Using SPSS, a two by two analysis of variance was calculated on sex and intelligence. Differences between male and female responses on attraction and commonality were also considered in the analysis. We had hypothesized that both male and female college students would be more attracted to the described individuals who had similar intelligence traits. However, there were no significant findings with regard to our hypothesis. Overall scores for attraction and commonality indicated no significant main effects for either of the variables. The ANOVA for intelligence (F (1, 26) = 2.568, p, > 7.05) showed that one`s intelligence didn`t effect one`s rating on attraction. Attraction was not found to be significantly effected by sex (F, (1, 26) = 1.208, p, > .05). Even with a combination of both intelligence and sex, there was no significant difference (F, (1, 26) = 1.514, p, > .05).

Concerning the commonality between the participants and described individuals, no significant effects were found for intelligence, sex or both. There was no effect found for intelligence (F, (1, 26) = 2.164, p, > .05). Those who were more similar to the intelligent individuals described were not significantly found to be more attracted to them. No differences were found when comparing same sex or opposite sex (F, (1, 26) = .000, p, > .05). The effect of intelligence and sex together, concerning commonality, was also not significant (F, (1, 26) = 2.500, p, > .05). Intelligence didn`t have an effect on the ratings of commonality for either male or female participants.

The descriptive statistics presented the rating of the four conditions. After collecting the data, we looked to see how similarity of intelligence effected attraction between same sex/opposite sex participants that were traditional college age (18-25). We thought that college students would be more attracted to the individuals described that are perceived to be more similar to them in intelligence. We thought this would be true for both same sex/opposite sex attraction, but overall, attraction was not effected by sex, intelligence and a combination of both for all conditions.


The purpose of our study was to expand on previous studies which looked at similarity and attraction by incorporating the concept of how perceived intelligence traits effect attraction. We wanted to see if people would be more attracted to individuals who are similar in intelligence. This study also looks at whether males or females are more critical in regard to attraction of intelligence. This is an area of interest that concerns interpersonal and social relationships based on intelligence factors influencing attraction.

There are various plausible reasons for the non-significant findings for each condition. More control was needed for the intervening extraneous variables. A bigger sample size may have been more beneficial to have instead of the small number of participants we included. With more data, we may have been able to find a significant difference.

The brief paragraphs may not have included enough information to describe each individual adequately. It may have been difficult for the participants to accurately rate how attracted they would be to the two individuals described and to rate how much in common he/she had with the two individuals. Expansion of the descriptions may help clear up any uncertainties. Pictures could also be included to provide a better perception of each individual described.

Another factor to implement within this study could be to select a wider range of ages. Since we only used traditional-aged individuals from general or intermediate psychology courses, a wider range of ages may make a more significant difference. Also to be considered, is that the participants may not have fully understood what the word attraction meant on the questionnaire. Some students may not have accurately rated how attracted he/she would be to the described individuals, due to the fact that participants may have perceived attraction to mean sexual attraction. If we were to re-submit the questionnaires, it would be better to emphasize and explain what the term attraction means in scientific psychological terms instead of the more social meaning.

Because the results of our study did not convey similar findings to previous research studies on attraction, our experiment appears to lack the control and specifics that may have indicated some significant findings. Further research in this area could include interviewing individuals independently about their dating partners and discuss how attracted they were and how similar they were. Another approach could be to randomly select individuals and have them each take some type of intelligence test to find their I.Q. and then group them into pairs to interact. Each couple could then rate how attracted they were to the other person after the time of interaction and discussion. Then the researchers could compare the I.Q. scores with the attraction rating of the individuals.

The current study was limited to traditional age college students, so there could be significant different results by widening the range of ages as well as different populations. Further studies need to be done to see if a significant difference can be found between similarity of intelligence and attraction.


Bailey, R.C., & Kelly, M. (1984). Perceived physical attractiveness in early, steady, and engaged daters. The Journal of Psychology, 116, 39-43.

Byrne, D., & Nelson, D. (1965). Attraction as a linear function of proportion of positive reinforcements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 659-663.

Duyssen, K., & Teske, J.A. (1993). Meta-attitudinal similarity and relationship closeness. Psychological Reports, 73, 921-922.

Feingold, A. (1991). Sex differences in the effects of similarity and physical attractiveness on opposite-sex attraction. Basic and Applied Social Psychology,12, 357-367.

Geron, J.R. (1995). Psychology: An introduction. (4th ed.). New York: Haper Collins College Publishers.

Jones, R.M., & Adams, G.R. (1982). Assessing the importance of physical attractiveness across the life-span. The Journal of Psychology, 118, 131-132.

Krebs, D., & Adinolfi, A.A. (1975). Physical attractiveness, social relations, and personality style. Journal-of-Personality-and-Social-Psychology, 31, 245-253.

LaPrelle, J., Hoyle, R.H., Insko, C.A., & Bernthal, P. (1990). Interpersonal attraction and descriptions of the traits of others: Ideal similarity, self similarity, and liking. Journal of Research in Personality, 24, 216-240.

Submitted 5/14/98 4:04:55 PM
Last Edited 9/14/2008 5:20:36 PM
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