Optimists are seen as more socially attractive than pessimists, research finds.
But this is just when people meet for the first time and do not know each other.
In long-term relationships, optimists are best matched with other optimists and pessimists get on with both other optimists and pessimists.
In other words, optimists mix well in long-term relationships with everyone, but pessimists can be a downer on other optimists — although they don’t seem to bother other pessimists.
The results come from a study of 248 people who read a series of vignettes that described either optimistic or pessimistic people.
Most people found the optimists more socially attractive.
However, people who were themselves optimists liked the other optimist even more.
On the other hand, people who were pessimists were not quite as keen on the optimist, but still preferred them to the pessimist.
Pessimists also had a sneaky liking for the other pessimist.
The results were more nuanced, though, when people considered their own long-term relationships.
Optimists were more satisfied when in a relationship with another optimist, and pessimists were happy with another pessimist or an optimist.
The authors write:
“…optimists may perceive a pessimistic partner as a burden, which may in turn affect their perceptions of relationship quality negatively.
Interestingly, this was not the case for pessimists, who reported the same levels of relationship quality regardless of whether they perceived their partners as pessimistic or as optimistic.”
The results support a psychological theory about interpersonal attraction called the ‘similarity-attraction hypothesis’.
The study’s authors write:
“Such a similarity attraction effect has been shown to be characteristic in the field of attitudes.
The similarity-attraction hypothesis claims that people tend to perceive others who are similar to themselves as more attractive than dissimilar others.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in The Journal of Positive Psychology (Böhm et al., 2010).