Well, I agree the title was a bit disturbing and it would be slightly uncomfortable for you to digest but aren’t you curious about it? And if you think you were the weird one for thinking about it, don’t worry, you are not alone. Numerous researches have shown that Women tend on average to pick partners whose faces look a bit like their fathers’, while men often choose partners who slightly resemble their mothers.
And the resemblance doesn’t stop at faces – you can also see subtle similarities on average between partner and parent height, hair colour, eye colour, ethnicity and even the degree of body hair. Well, I am sure you would be grossed up enough for now. Let’s stop going to intimate details and talk about why does this happen?
Scientists have long known that species including birds, mammals and fish pick mates that look similar to their parents. This is known as positive sexual imprinting. For example, if a goat mother looks after a sheep baby, or a sheep mother looks after a goat baby, then those babies grow up to try to mate with the species of their foster mother, instead of their own and it seems humans follow the same trend.
Don’t worry! It’s not all messed up.
We are not talking about Freud’s Oedipus complex which talked about how children have a suppressed desire for their parents. But this branch of research doesn’t in any way show that we secretly desire our parents, just that we simply tend to be attracted to people who resemble them to some extent.
And you would totally be with me on the point that we seem to find our immediate family members unattractive. For instance, people find the very idea of sexual relationships with their siblings deeply unappealing. This aversion seems to develop automatically through two distinct processes. One process turns off attraction to those that we spend a lot of time with during childhood. The other turns off attraction to any infants that our mother looks after a lot. Sexual aversion to siblings might be nature’s way of ensuring we don’t try to reproduce with someone who is too closely related to us and reproduction with close relatives is linked to an increased likelihood of genetic disorders in any resulting offspring. This aversion to close relatives is known as negative sexual imprinting. However, genetic sexual attraction can occur between siblings that have been separated and meet first as adults.
So when does this actually start?
Perhaps we learn that our parents looks are attractive early in life, and then tuck that learning away – only to let it reemerge when we’re ready for adult relationships. Or perhaps more recent experiences override earlier learning?
There was a research done that found that the women who reported a better relationship with their parents after puberty were more likely to be attracted to partners with similar eye colour to them. In contrast, if a woman was close to her parents earlier in life, she was actually less likely to prefer the eye colour of her parents in a partner.
But of course, this doesn’t imply much about this thing as we don’t have enough data for it and in science, correlation is never causation.
What could be the biological reason then?
It turns out that coupling up with a distant family member seems to be the best bet, biologically, to produce a large number of healthy children. One possibility is that if you are attracted to people who look like your parents, then chances are you may get a crush on distant relatives. This might give you better chances of more healthy children, and so this behaviour persists.
Source: The Conversation