One of the most powerful predictors of whether any two people will be attracted to each other is proximity. It seems so obvious that we often overlook it. Or perhaps we overlook it because it doesn’t seem very romantic. But the fact remains that one of the best predictors of attraction is sheer proximity or physical nearness.
Of course, new technologies allow us to communicate and interact with others over great distances. Internet dating also means that it’s becoming more common to find lovers and sexual partners from a distance. Yet, the vast majority of our most important social interactions—and this includes romantic attraction—occurs with people who are in the same place at the same time.
For example, back in 1932, James Bossard examined a marriage registry in Philadelphia and found that one-sixth of about 5,000 married couples lived one block from each other before they were married. One-third lived within five or less blocks from each before marriage.
More recent studies in the UK have reached similar conclusions. In the late 1970s, for example, about half of marriages that were examined in one study took place between individuals who lived, on average, five kilometers from each other before marriage. Another study found that 25 percent of couples in Reading (a town in southeast England) were born less than 10 kilometers apart, and 50 percent lived within five kilometers from each other when they met.
In short, most studies consistently find that the number of marriages declines as the distance between potential spouses increases. Or as Bossard put it, “Cupid may have wings, but apparently they are not adapted for long flights.”
The obvious objection to these studies is that new technologies have made such findings obsolete. In fact, even more recent studies indicate that the majority of relationships form between individuals who are in close proximity to each other. One 2006 survey of couples showed that almost a half met at school or work, while most of the rest met in the same neighborhood, place of worship or gym.
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