Relationships are best between people of similar desirability, study finds

MU research shows people of similar desirability are most likely to pair up, have long-lasting and successful relationships.


Brian Consiglio: They say in every romantic relationship, someone is settling, settling for a partner that is less desirable to be exact. But new research at the University of Missouri suggests most relationship partners are actually pretty similarly desirable.

Sean Prall, a professor at the University of Missouri, interviewed people from a community in northern Namibia about the desirability of other people in the community. They found that people with similar levels of desirability were more likely to enter into a relationship with each other and had better success in those relationships. Prall said that this research is important because it focuses on what people do, not what they say.

Prall: “It’s hard to actually get at people’s real beliefs because when they talk about things like this they’re really talking about what their culture desires in a mate, not what they desire in a mate. We were interested in what do people actually do not just what do they say they do?”

Consiglio: The research shows that even though people may say they want to be in a relationship with someone more desirable, they are more likely to get with someone more similar to themselves. Prall believes these findings can be applied to many types of populations, not just the one in northern Namibia he was studying.

Prall: “Unlike some of my other work which is very specific, this matches pretty well with a lot of sociology and psychology literature on mating that shows that people tend to assortatively mate, which means that like pairs up with like. This is pretty broadly applicable to all sorts of contexts.”

Consiglio: For more on this research, visit

I’m Brian Consiglio, with a spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

Subscribe to

Show Me Mizzou

Stay up-to-date with the latest news by subscribing to the Show Me Mizzou newsletter.