Daddy issues are so yesterday. According to a deeply discomforting new study, women are actually more likely to seek out lovers who remind them of their brothers, not their fathers. So, yeah; wrap your head around that one for a second.
"Previous research has already shown that people seem, on average, to pick partners who look somewhat like their parents," said Tamsin Saxton of Northumbria University, who worked on the study published in Evolution and Human Behavior.
Past research has suggested that parental facial features act as a point of reference for genetic similarity.
"We realized that [this theory] could also apply equally to siblings. So, we wanted to test whether we could detect perceptual similarity between someone's partner and siblings."
Researchers had 32 volunteers – all women between the ages of 19 and 40 – send in photos of their brothers and their partners. For an extra sample set, the researchers gathered 48 photos of the brothers and partners of public figures and celebrities.
A separate group of raters – none of whom were aware that the people in the photos had relationships to one another – was tasked with matching up the photos based on which they thought looked alike. Just under one third of raters chose a woman’s partner as the most similar to her brother.
"If the volunteers were picking entirely by chance, then we'd expect one quarter of their choices to be for the 'correct' brother-boyfriend pair," Saxton said.
In a more advanced analysis of the data – which involved controlling for age and other variables – raters picked the correct brother-boyfriend pair as most similar 27 percent of the time, which is slightly above chance. In other words, researchers found it was more than just a coincidence that women often chose boyfriends that looked like their brothers.
"One important point is that you shouldn't expect to be able to pick a partner simply based on the appearance of a sibling! Not all women had partners that looked like their brothers," cautioned Saxton.
"The point though is that it's pretty weird to think that our partners might bear any resemblance whatsoever to our brothers - and an everyday prediction might be that partners and brothers wouldn't look alike at all...However, our study found that there was this subtle resemblance."
Oh brother, indeed.