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Lovestruck: Leading research to refute misconceptions about forming romantic relationships

Psychology 19 November 2014

Dr Viren Swami, leading researcher in the science of attraction and Reader in Psychology at the University of Westminster, will be one of the keynote speakers at the 2014 Psychology4Students conference in Sheffield on 20 November organised by The British Psychological Society.

Dr Swami will deliver a talk titled 'Lovestruck: The Psychology of Attraction' that is expected to receive a high level of interest from the predominantly student audience. The speech will focus on the three principles believed to be the most important in finding a romantic partner – proximity, physical appearance and similarity – and will challenge the misconceptions around them.

The first principle to be investigated will be proximity. "We tend to form relationships with people who are nearby geographically. Generally we find it easier; it's less expensive and it's less time-consuming," explains Dr Swami. Many claim that by the spread of online dating this principle lost its prominence as we are dating people living further away, but Dr Swami will argue that this is not the case. "Even in online dating people are looking for people who are nearby. The first thing you do when you go online dating is that you narrow your geographical search. If you are living in London, you are not looking for someone in Scotland, you are looking for someone in London."

Physical appearance is the second and possibly the most controversial principle that the leading researcher will be talking about. Most people think that physical appearance is the most important criterion but Dr Swami will dispel the myth. "I'm going to show that although physical appearance matters in the short term, in the long term it's less important than things like having a good sense of humour or being kind and understanding." He explains, "It is because people want to be with nice people and physical appearance matters when you don't have information about the other person. If you don't have any information what their personalities are like, then you focus on things that you can see, like appearance. But once you get other information about things like personality or their demographics, they matter more than physical appearance."

The final factor that plays a role in forming relationships is similarity, that is the most important predictor of long-term stability in a relationship. People who are more similar to each other form more stable relationships. Dr Swami will explore different types of similarities, such as similarity in appearance, personality, values and beliefs, and he will claim that it is the latter two that really matter. The idea that opposite attracts opposite will be also refuted.

Places are still available for the event – register on the Psychology4Students webpage.

Dr Swami also organises the popular Plug In Your Brain psychology discussion series that includes sessions on 'Why time warps', looking into why time slows down when we are afraid and why it speeds up as we grow older, and 'Our strange thoughts' where award-winning journalist David Adam will claim you are not alone if you have had a sudden urge to jump in front of a moving train or leap from a high place.


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