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Dating websites and psychological researchers attempt to find those factors that predict the fit between potential romantic partners. Examples for factors taken into consideration are the "big five" dimensions of personality, attractiveness, or hobbies. These factors are found by looking at people in successful versus failed relationships.

When I get to know someone over a long period of time, these factors might be what makes me want to enter a relationship with them, and in fact they might predict how successful a relationship to that person will be. But when I meet a stranger what I find is that none of these factors predict if that spark of attraction will fly. Often, the girls that make me go all slack-jawed and drooling with romantic tunnel vision have little in common with the profile I would create for my ideal partner, while an attractive girl that fulfills all criteria for a successful relationship with me will leave me completely cold.

Is there research into how to predict if one person will spark the romantic interest of another?

I accept opinion, if it is based on careful reflection and does not just contain banalities.

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Definitely, though AFAIK, it's mostly very general, nomothetic research; hence it may not help explain your predicament much. IOU an answer, and am sharing this with a friend and colleague who was into this kind of research once upon a time. – Nick Stauner Jun 2 '14 at 7:52

You are quite astute to have noticed the difference between your stated preferences and actual preferences - most people don't. Yes, there has been a fair bit of research on prediction techniques and their effectiveness.

In 2008, in a study by Paul Eastwick and Eli Finkel, participants were asked to predict their romantic preferences - what they found attractive in potential mates. The subjects were then followed up on speed dating and other dating behaviour over the following month to see how their actual choices compared with their predictions. The results showed that both men and women have no useful insight into their own romantic preferences that could be used to predict their actual dating choices.

A number of other studies examining a variety of methods for matching dating partners using questionnaires, physical traits, personality characteristics, dating techniques, and other theories of compatibility all failed to find a correlation between people's expressed preferences and actual dating behaviour. Many online dating sites promote their compatibility calculation tools that are based on self-reported preferences, but research so far suggests that none of them do much better than random.

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That's very interesting, thank you, Arnon. But it seems that one non-self-report measure, that is: facial similarity, did in fact predict mutual attraction. – what Nov 10 '14 at 11:33
Yes, specifically facial dis-similarity was slightly predictive. I also seem to recall a mild correlation suggesting that men like women who are nice to them, and women like tall men. But nothing really significant. – Arnon Weinberg Nov 10 '14 at 19:02

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