A number of past studies have shown that people tend to choose romantic and sexual partners who are similar in height to themselves, but the reasons for this preference have been unclear — until now, that is. New research from the University of Edinburgh suggests that physical attraction is influenced by genetics, particularly by the genes that control our height. So the next time you find yourself lusting after someone who’s about as tall as you are, consider the fact that your attraction might not be rooted in the person’s raw animal magnetism — it might just be your genes talking.
Researchers led by Albert Tenesa studied the genotypes of 13,068 heterosexual couples, and found that the genes that controlled subjects' height also had a hand in determining their height-based attraction to other people. Tenesa told Science Daily,
Our genes drive our attraction for partners of similar height to ours, i.e. tall people pair with tall people. We found that 89 percent of the genetic variation affecting individual preferences for height and one's own height are shared, indicating that there's an innate preference for partners of similar height.
Tenesa said that he and his colleagues found that by analyzing the genes of one subject, they could predict the height of the subject’s partner with an accuracy of 13 percent. He added, “The similarity in height between partners is driven by the observed physical appearance of the partner, specifically their height, rather than influenced by the social or genetic structure of the population we live in."
As the study, published yesterday in Genome Biology, explains, humans’ genetic drive to mate with people who match them in height is a part of a mating pattern called “assortative mating.” In cases if assortative mating, subjects choose mates who are physically similar to them, at a rate higher than would occur if they chose mates purely by chance. Assortative mating “plays a crucial role in shaping the genome structure of the population,” the study states. Science Daily points out that this genetic shaping can in turn have a major affect on how other traits develop, including how vulnerable a human population is to disease.