319 Self-Other Overlap & Close Relationships

Based on research by Aron, Arthur., & Fraley, Barbara. (1999) written by Bethany Wellman, M.S.

What is one indication that a romantic relationship is close, thriving and likely to last?

Theorists have suggested that those in close relationships have “self-other overlap” where partners share interests, mannerisms, traits, values and goals.

Cognitive Psychology researchers had 150 New York University students complete surveys measuring closeness and relationship experience, as well as rate themselves on traits; then they rated the overlap of traits with their partner’s. The longer the Reaction time to select each trait the less close the self-trait was to the partner’s. Three months later, to test whether these overlaps related to a lasting relationship, students again rated their closeness to their partner.

They measured passion, love, intimacy, closeness, commitment, and character traits.

Results confirmed that those who reported continued close relationships, also had continued matching traits. The stronger the initial reports of love, and overlap of traits, the more likely the close relationship was maintained over the three months’ time.

We may suddenly ‘fall in love’ but the relationship is more likely to last when we evaluate our partner’s traits as similar to ours in habits, values, and goals.


Aron, A., & Fraley, B. (1999). Relationship Closeless As Including Other in the Self: Cognitive Underpinnings and Measures. Social Cognition17(2), 140-160.

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