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Evidence of assortative mating for theory of mind via facial expressions but not language

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gareth RichardsORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been accepted and is due to be published in its final definitive form by Sage Publications Ltd., 2022.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Assortative mating is a phenomenon in which romantic partners typically resemble each other at a level greater than chance. There is converging evidence that social behaviours are subject to assortative mating, though less is known regarding social cognition. Social functioning requires the ability to identify and understand the mental states of others, i.e., theory of mind. The present study recruited a sample of 102 heterosexual couples via an online survey to test if theory of mind as measured using facial expressions (Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test) or language (Stiller-Dunbar Stories Task) is associated with assortative mating. Results provide evidence of assortative mating for theory of mind via facial expressions, though there was no such effect for theory of mind via language. Assortative mating for theory of mind via facial expressions was not moderated by length of relationship nor by partner similarity in age, educational attainment, or religiosity, all variables relevant to social stratification. This suggests assortative mating for theory of mind via facial expressions is better explained by partners being alike at the start of their relationship (initial assortment) rather than becoming similar through sustained social interaction (convergence), and by people seeking out partners that are like themselves (active assortment) rather than simply pairing with those from similar demographic backgrounds (social homogamy).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jackson E, Galvin J, Warrier V, Baron-Cohen S, Luo S, Dunbar RIM, Proctor H, Lee E, Richards G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: In Press

Journal: Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

Year: 2022

Acceptance date: 24/05/2022

Date deposited: 25/05/2022

ISSN (print): 0265-4075

ISSN (electronic): 1460-3608

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.