Playing with Strangers: Which Shared Traits Attract Us Most to New People?

PLoS One. 2015 Jun 8;10(6):e0129688. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129688. eCollection 2015.


Homophily, the tendency for individuals to associate with those who are most similar to them, has been well documented. However, the influence of different kinds of similarity (e.g. relating to age, music taste, ethical views) in initial preferences for a stranger have not been compared. In the current study, we test for a relationship between sharing a variety of traits (i.e. having different kinds of similarity) with a stranger and the perceived likeability of that stranger. In two online experiments, participants were introduced to a series of virtual partners with whom they shared traits, and subsequently carried out activities designed to measure positivity directed towards those partners. Greater numbers of shared traits led to linearly increasing ratings of partner likeability and ratings on the Inclusion of Other in Self scale. We identified several consistent predictors of these two measures: shared taste in music, religion and ethical views. These kinds of trait are likely to be judged as correlates of personality or social group, and may therefore be used as proxies of more in-depth information about a person who might be socially more relevant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical