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Everyone knows the adage that when it comes to choosing prospective mates, opposites attract. But this is not the case in David Perret's lab. In the psychology department in St. Andrew's University in Scotland, each time an experiment is conducted, results show that like attracts like.

Perrett is a cognitive psychologist. For more than a decade, he and his team have been seating students in front of a computer, showing them a stream of faces and asking them the simple question. "Who do you fancy most?"

Perrett and his team have found out that being average is a good way to attract. Blend lots of faces together and a bland yet curiously attractive composite is obtained which people rate more highly than the most appealing of the individual faces.

His team also found that people are attracted to faces, not because they are unconsciously reminded of themselves, but because they remind them of mum and dad. In other words, there may be a grain of truth in the Freudian idea that we learn what to look for in a partner by gazing onto the faces of our parents during our impressionable years. This basic observation that people tend to choose mates who are boringly similar to themselves is nothing new. Psychologists have known for decades that total strangers can pair up married couples from photographs with eerie accuracy.

However, this theory is contrary to Charles Darwin's theories. According to Darwin, babies from two different gene pools are more biologically fit than offspring from the same gene pools. That is why in many societies, inbreeding is frowned upon. So, according to Darwin, surely we are programmed to find opposite types attractive?

All sorts of reasons have been given as to why we end up with people like ourselves. And these reasons have nothing to do with biology. Marriages, for instance, usually unite people of the same religion, educational background and socio-economic status. The safest tactic is also to choose someone who is about the same level of attractiveness as us. Trying to find a mate who is way above or below ourselves is bound to end in tears.

Perrett and his team doubt it. They say that couples tend to match on a wide range of characteristics such as size, eye colour and strength. In these cases, we must be choosing partners who look like us ... or members of our family.

It was this realization that drew Perret's team into investigating whether our parents' looks might influence our choice of mate. To test the idea, the researchers presented undergraduates with a computer-generated image of an average face at different ages and asked them to rate it for attractiveness. The results were striking. Although all students chose younger faces to old, those whose parents were older than 30 when they were born were significantly attracted to older faces than were students born to young parents. It would seem the older your parents are when you are growing up, the more likely you will prefer older partners later in life.

To settle the matter once and for all, there is a need to compare the preferences of people by biological and adoptive parents. If Perrett and his team are right, adopted children should show a preference for faces that are similar to those of their adoptive parents, not their biological ones.

This is not something new in the animal kingdom. From looking at their parents, many young animals learn very early in life who they should mate with later on in life. And they can be easily hoodwinked. A duck brought up in a goose family will try to mate with geese when it reaches maturity. Thus cross-fostered animal chose to mate and socialize with their adopted mother's species. 


The following are David Perrett's findings except

    (A) people are attracted to those who like themselves
    (B) people are attracted to average looks
    (C) people are attracted to images of their parents

people are attracted to images of themselves


What is Darwin's theory ?


Healthy offspring are more likely to be produced by parents from different gene pools.

    (B) Healthy offspring are more like to be produced by parents from the same gene pool.
    (C) The dangers of inbreeding can be ignored.
    (D) Inbreeding helps to preserve characteristics.

What is Freud's theory ?

    (A) We like to look upon our parents' faces.
    (B) We are completely taken in by our parents in our most vulnerable years.

People choose mates that look like their father or mother.

    (D) People refrain from choosing mates that are similar to their parents.

Some scientists say that like marry like because they share the same educational, social and religious backgrounds. Perrett does not agree with this. He says that

    (A) couples match on the same level of attractiveness

couples also share other characteristics

    (C) couples like images of themselves
    (D) couples like older parents

What is the pattern in the animal kingdom as far as choice of mates is concerned ?

    (A) Animals are attracted to the fittest mate.
    (B) Animals are attracted to their own species.
    (C) Animals are attracted to other species.

Animals are attracted to their parent species.

  6. Which of the following words can best be substituted for the word ' eerie ' in ' eerie accuracy ' ?
    (A) unerring
    (B) weird


    (D) fearful
  7. The general idea of this article is
    (A) the propagation of the species
    (B) the hazards of inbreeding
    (C) the importance of parents

the choice of mate

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  Answers : 1) D    2) A    3) C    4) B    5) D     6) C     7) D

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Comprehension 1


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