Psychology: Parental link found in attraction

Study shows the kinds of faces we find appealing as adults are set in childhood

Freud may have been on to something with the Oedipus complex. According to psychologists, men are drawn to women who look like their mothers, while women are taken with men who resemble their fathers.

In a study published today, psychologists measured people's faces and compared them with their partner's parents and strangers. They found men were more likely to pair up with women whose bone structure was similar to their own mothers, with a similar effect holding for womens' choice of men.

The findings offer fresh evidence for what psychologists call "sexual imprinting", where the kinds of faces we find appealing as adults are set, if not rigidly, in early childhood.

The study, led by Tamas Bereczkei at the University of Pecs in Hungary, appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Bereczkei argues the effect cannot be due to familiarity alone. If that were the case, women would be drawn to men whose faces were similar to their mothers as well as their fathers, he said.

Previous work by the same group showed that women who bonded most strongly with their foster-fathers were likely to end up with partners with a similar facial structure.


Ian Sample, science correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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