October 28, 2019/ Katerina Mangini
“Opposites attract” has been a phrase that we have regurgitated at each other for generations without really thinking twice about it. For example, when you start dating someone your friends aren’t sure about, or maybe when you become best friends with a person that has absolutely nothing in common with you — we often blame these coincidences on the idea that people always like things that are different; that people only want new or opposite from themselves.
Modern Psychology has something else to say about it. Based on the Convergence of Appearance theory, couples or groups of people that have known each other for an extensive period of time begin to morph into the same person, whether that be in relation to fashion, haircut or even just personna. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “why would I want to look like my boyfriend!?” or “my best friend and I look nothing alike...” But think about it. Many of our most iconic Hollywood duos or cliques share quite a few resemblances, be it in physical looks or just clothing choice; Cher and Dionne from “Clueless,” The Heathers from, well, “Heathers” or even Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears and their matching denim outfits at the American Music Awards in 2001. Our brains appreciate seeing people that match. On the opposite side of that, people enjoy being seen as fitting with another person or within a group.
“I don’t notice the resemblance between us as much but every once in a while it’s very obvious,” said Anna, lifelong best friend of Mia, when asked about the commonalities between the two. The funny thing about this theory is that most of the time, the people involved don’t realize their similarities, or might even deny it. Both girls described their personal styles as simple and comfortable. Mia added that she thinks they don’t “intentionally look to each other for style tips, but since we look pretty much the same, we tend to wear a lot of the same stuff.”
This idea of morphing into people you live in close proximity with for a good amount of time is not exclusive to larger groups, especially at UT’s Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority house. Even though sorority sisters Cate, Jenna and Murphy have only been living together for two months, they’ve already adopted a few trends from each other. Jenna shared that she “came (to UT) wearing tennis skirts and they made fun of me, but now everyone wears them.” Cate stated that they see each other at least an hour every day, so how could they not turn into the same person? Murphy even told me that she has a new appreciation for beauty trends since one of her sorority sisters got her hooked on YouTube and makeup vlogs.
This familiarity that our brain craves is not only common among people, but is regularly found in pet and owner pairs. Maria is an 84 year old woman who has owned Choco, her short-haired Daschund, for seven years. When asked if there was anything physical about Choco that caused her to be drawn to him, Maria responded “I liked his color, which is red in dog fur names!” This connection to the color of Choco that Maria had is due to the Mere Exposure Effect, a theory that states that our brains like things that seem familiar to us. Based on Maria and Choco’s similar hair coloring, this theory has an obvious presence in their relationship. They have even picked up on each other’s daily habits.
“When it’s time to go to bed around 9:30, he starts to call for me because he knows it’s time to go to sleep,” Maria said.
Even if we can’t see it ourselves, the similarities to those who are closest to us are often uncanny. The acclimation between pairs and groups can be even more unbelievable on occasion. Who knows? Maybe by this time next year, we’ll all be wearing tennis skirts!
The real question is, why do we want to be the same as those around us? Why do we constantly want to fit in, almost like clones sometimes? Why wouldn’t we — subconsciously or not — want to stand out? These psychological theories pinpoint the human brain’s greatest fault: our insecurities. This weakness pushes us to want to be accepted, to fit in. Our insecurities can even cause us to be the worst versions of ourselves at times. But as long as we have the same hairstyle as everyone else, it’s okay, right?
Although this might not be the case with the group examples above, it is frequently the case for many. We have been forced into a societal context that encourages conformity, and it’s considerably more out of our control than we believe. Next time you find yourself “twinning” with your group of friends, think about why that is. Is it because you like the familiarity, or is it an underlying detachment from yourself that you are aiming to mend? •
by: Katerina Mangini
graphics: Izellah Wang