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Ideal partner’s personality depends on trait at hand

Press release: "Similar to and/or better than oneself? Singles’ ideal partner personality descriptions"

In a recent study, Dr. Jie Liu and colleagues examined how single people picture their ideal partner. The researchers investigated this question by asking over 900 single people from Denmark, China, Germany, and the US to describe their own personality, as well as their ideal partner’s personality using a common framework to structure people’s personality. The results of this study show that there is no general way that one’s own personality is linked to that of an ideal partner, but rather that this link depends on the specific personality trait. The results of the study are published in the July/August issue of the European Journal of Personality.

In their research, Liu and colleagues found that, at least for single people, the link between one’s own personality and that of an ideal partner may differ depending on the personality trait that is being examined. The researchers described different ways that single people might look for partners, namely, whether they are “similar” to and/or “better” (i.e., more desirable) than they are with regard to their personality traits. For all traits, single people preferred finding a partner that was similar to them, and this was especially true for traits that were strongly linked to attitudes and values, such as Openness to Experience – a trait that captures the tendency to be curious or open-minded, and is strongly linked to political views. For some other traits, single people reported preferences for partners that had a more desirable standing than they did. For instance, single people generally preferred partners with higher levels of Extraversion. Finally, for the trait of Agreeableness, single people showed a similar degree of preference for partners “being similar” and “being better”.

These results were highly similar across the diverse range of countries studied, but showed important differences between men and women. Women were generally “pickier” than men, in the sense that women typically sought out partners with comparatively better personalities than did men. Moreover, there were some differences in the links between own personality and ideal partner’s personality for certain traits. For example, men generally sought out partners with similar scores on Emotionality – a trait reflecting the tendency to be anxious and sentimental, rather than tough and brave – whereas women looked for partners with lower scores than their own.

Correspondence about this research may be addressed to the lead author, Dr. Jie Liu, Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Øster Farimagsgade 2A, 1353 Copenhagen, Denmark. Dr. Liu can be contacted via email at The article can be accessed here.

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