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Encyclopedia > Interpersonal attraction

In social psychology, interpersonal attraction (known as biological attraction in animals/insects) is the attraction between people which leads to friendships and romantic relationships. In a colloquial sense, interpersonal attraction is related to how much we like, love, dislike, or hate someone. Interpersonal attraction can be thought of as a force acting between two people tending to draw them together, and resisting their separation. According to a personality psychologists' view, interpersonal attraction is a person's qualities that tend to attract by appealing to another person's desires.[1] When measuring interpersonal attraction, one must refer to the qualities of the attracted as well as the qualities of the attractor to achieve predictive accuracy. The study of interpersonal attraction is a major area of study in social psychology. They suggest that to determine attraction, personality and situation must be taken into account. Repulsion is also a factor in the process of interpersonal attraction, one's conception of "attraction" to another can vary from extreme attraction to extreme repulsion.[2] The scope of social psychological research. ... Friendship is a term used to denote co-operative and supportive behaviour between two or more humans. ... Romantic love is a form of love that is often regarded as different from mere needs driven by sexual desire or lust, or material and social gain. ... An intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship with a great deal of physical and/or emotional intimacy. ... Look up like in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Love is any of a number of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection or profound oneness. ... “Hatred” redirects here. ... In physics, force is an influence that may cause an object to accelerate. ... The scope of social psychological research. ...



Many factors leading to interpersonal attraction have been studied. The most frequently studied are:

  1. Physical attractiveness
  2. Propinquity
  3. Familiarity
  4. Similarity
  5. Reciprocal liking
  6. Reinforcement

Jessica Alba is commonly ranked highly in comparisons of physical attractiveness for her youthful face, full lips, and low waist-hip ratio of 0. ... In social psychology, propinquity is one of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction. ... Exposure effect is a psychological artifact well known to advertisers: people express undue liking for things merely because they are familiar with them. ... In social psychology, similarity refers to how closely attitudes, values, interests and personality match between people. ... We dont have an article called Reciprocal liking Start this article Search for Reciprocal liking in. ... In operant conditioning, reinforcement is the behavioral operationalization of the effects of reinforcers. ...


Similarity is the idea that a person feels attraction to another whose physical attractiveness (culturally influenced) is perceived as similar to their own. This hypothesis is commonly known as the matching hypothesis. Researchers suggest that people are also attracted to others who are similar to them in demographics, interpersonal style, communication skills, and social situations. A study conducted by Theodore Newcomb on college dorm roommates suggested that individuals with shared background, majors, attitudes, values, and political views became friends. There are three reasons why researchers think that similarity to the object of attraction is important. First, many assume that people who are similar to them will reciprocate their feeling thereby they would be more likely to start a relationship. Second, many think that people will confirm and side with them on their beliefs and characteristics providing them with the feeling of rightness. Third, people most often have negative assumption about others that they think are different from them. However, a study done by David Amodio and Carolin Showers (2005) suggests that when a person wants a committed relationship, they tend to chose someone similar to themselves, and that if they only want a 'fling' they tend to chose a person dissimilar to them. The matching hypothesis is a popular psychological theory proposed by Walster et al. ...

A current study on interpersonal attraction by R. Matthew Montoya at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Robert S. Horton from Wabash College. This study consisted of 3 smaller studies that had 81 participants, and consisted of two sessions. The first session, each individual took an attitude assessment, then after they were finished participants were given information about another participant who they were going to meet in the second session. Before this second session they were asked what they expected their partner to be like after judging them from the information given. During the second session, the two participants would meet and have to complete a problem solving task together.

The final conclusion of the study showed that "Attraction is based on an evaluation of quality of an individual".

Equity theory

The equity theory is the idea that people are happiest with relationships in which the rewards and costs experienced and the contributions made by both parties are roughly equal. This results in one person in the relationship feeling advantageous-getting many rewards with little costs and devoting little or no time to the relationship, and at a disadvantage-getting little or no reward with a lot of costs and devoting a more time on the relationship. Researches suggest that people on either situation should bring back balance into their relationship by giving and receiving equally. A person in a disadvantageous position will likely be more favorable to change because no one wants to feel miserable all the time. The person who are at an advantage will be more hesitant to change but as time goes by, he/she will eventually feel inadequate and guilty because this receiving rewards without costs all the time goes against social norm therefore, he/she will want to change as well.

Social Exchange Theory

People's feelings toward another is dependent on his/her perception of rewards and costs, the kind of relationships he/she deserves, and their likelihood for having a healthier relationship with someone else. Rewards are the part of a relationship that makes it worthwhile and enjoyable. Costs is something that sometimes causes irritation like when a friend overstays his/her welcome. Comparison level is also taken into account during a relationship. This suggest that people expect rewards or punishment depending on the time invested in the relationship. If the level of expected rewards is high and the level of costs if minimal, the relationship suffers and both parties may become dissatisfied and unhappy. Lastly, the comparison level of alternatives states that people's satisfaction is conditional on the chance that he/she could replace the relationship with a more desirable one.

Attraction = Friendship

Warren Kubitschek and Maureen Hallinan, University of Notre Dame, social psychologists who suggested that attraction is the result of the propinquity and similarity effects and the status of each parties involved. Their study was about the tracking program that organizes students according to their level of ability to learn. This is mostly implemented in middle and almost all of high school. Their goal is to prove that students on the same track have a higher probability of becoming friends compare to those in different tracks according. Other organizational based groupings should also follow these factors. The propinquity effect creates an ideal environment where students are in close physical proximity with each other and have the chance to build familiarity that leads to friendship. Similarity in tracking students is important because they found that track students tend to become friends with others who have the same academic achievement and expectations as themselves. They also found that students on the same level of status concerning grades will likely name them than those who are on lower level than their own. They conclude that although the factors mentioned do have great influence on friendship, they are not exclusive for organized program like tracking.

Attraction = Romantic Relationship

The triangular theory of love by Robert Sternberg is based on intimacy, passion, and commitment. Consummate love being the strongest type of love which consists of three aspects: intimacy+passion+commitment. The idea of this theory is that love can consist of one component alone or any combination of the three parts: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Here is an image of the triangular theory of love. The triangular theory of love characterizes love in an interpersonal relationship on three different scales: intimacy, passion and commitment. ... Robert J. Sternberg (8 December 1949-) is the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University and is the former IBM Professor of Psychology and Education at Yale University. ...

There are many factors taken into account when a relationship turns into love. One big factor is culture. This is a common issue among two people who come very different cultural back rounds. In a study done by Phillip Shavers and his colleagues, they interviewed participants from different parts of the world and found that love has "similar and different meanings cross-culturally. The Chinese participants had several different love concepts such as "sorrow-love","tenderness-pity", and "sorrow-pity". This ties into another study done by Rothbaym and his partner Tsang in 1998, they researched popular love songs from American and Chinese artists. The difference was that the Chinese love songs, "had significantly more references to suffering and to negative outcomes than the American love songs." This may be due to beliefs that interpersonal relationships are predestined, and thus no control over love lives.

Evolutionary theories

The evolutionary explanation of interpersonal attraction is that it more likely occurs when someone has physical features which indicate that they are very fertile. According to this theory, the only purpose of relationships is reproduction and so we "invest" in someone who appears very fertile to increase the chance of our genes being passed down to the next generation. This theory has been criticized because it does not explain relationships between people who do not want children or homosexual couples. Fertile may be used in the following conrtext: Fertility, a term used to describe the ability of people or animals to produce healthy offspring. ... This stylistic schematic diagram shows a gene in relation to the double helix structure of DNA and to a chromosome (right). ... Since its coinage, the word homosexuality has acquired multiple meanings. ...

Another evolutionary explanation suggests that fertility in a mate is of greater importance to men than to women. According to this theory, women place significant emphasis on a man's ability to provide resources and protection. The theory suggests that these resources and protection are important in ensuring the successful raising of the woman's offspring. Additionally, or alternatively, the ability to provide resources and protection may also be sought because the underlying traits are likely to be passed onto male offspring.

Evolutionary theory also suggests that people whose physical features suggest they are healthy are seen as more attractive. The theory suggests that a healthy mate is more likely to possess genetic traits related to health that would be passed on to offspring. People's tendency to consider people with facial symmetry more attractive than those with less symmetric faces is one example. Facial symmetry is one of a number of traits associated with health, physical attractiveness and beauty of a person or animal. ...

It has also been suggested that people are attracted to faces similar to their own. Case studies have revealed that when a photograph of a woman was superimposed to include the features of a man's face, the man whose face has been superimposed almost always rated that picture the most attractive.[citation needed] This theory is based upon the notion that we want to replicate our own features in the next generation, as we have survived thus far with such features and have instinctive survival wishes for our children.

Breaking Up

This is the ending of an relationship whether its a friendship or romantic relationship. There are several reasons that a relationship may come to an end. One reason derives from the equity theory (rewards and costs are equal to both parties), if a person in the relationship feels that the costs of them being in the relationship outweigh the rewards there is a strong chance they will end the relationship, this also may go for the rewards outweighing costs in some cases.

See also

In the fields of sociology, behavioral psychology, and evolutionary psychology, with specific reference to intimate relationships, romantic relationships, or friendships, interpersonal chemistry is a reaction between two people or the spontaneous reaction of two people to each other, especially a mutual sense of attraction or understanding. ... The term human bond, or more generally human bonding, refers to the process or formation of a close personal relationship, as between a parent and child, especially through frequent or constant association. ... It has been suggested that womanizer be merged into this article or section. ...


  1. ^ Keyword: “attraction”; source: Merriam-Webster collegiate Dictionary, 2000
  2. ^ Berscheid, Ellen; Walster, Elaine H. (1969). Interpersonal Attraction. Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.. CCCN 69-17443. 
  • Kubitschek, Warren N., and Maureen T. Hallinan. Social Psychology Quarterly; Tracking and Students' Friendships. Vol. 61. American Sociological Association, 1998.
  • Montoya, R. Matthew, and Robert S. Horton. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; on the Importance of Cognitive Evaluation as a Determinant of Interpersonal Attraction.(Author Abstract). Vol. 86. American Psychological Association, Inc, 2004.
  • Aronson, Elliot, Timothy D. Wilson, and Robin M. Akert. Social Psychology Sixth Edition. New Jersey: Upper Saddle River, 2007.

  Results from FactBites:
Interpersonal attraction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (271 words)
Interpersonal attraction is the attraction between people which leads to friendships and romantic relationships.
The study of interpersonal attraction is a major area of study in social psychology.
The evolutionary explanation of interpersonal attraction is that it more likely occurs when someone has physical features which indicate that they are very fertile.
  More results at FactBites »



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