Attraction and Close Relationships (Lecture 6)
- Four Factors that InfluenceAttraction:
- 1) Proximity
o How close we are in physical distance from someone. The people you choose to
o “Contrary to popular beliefs, I do not believe that friends are necessarily the
people you like best; they are merely the people who got there first”. - Sir Peter
o Westgate Housing Study
Married MIT students randomly assigned to one of 17 buildings in a
housing complex isolated from the rest of the city.
Virtually no one knows anyone in the complex
Simple question: who ends up liking whom?
Results: 65% of the residents had at least one friend who lived in their
own building. But those living in the same building represented only 5%
of all residents. The people had more friends that lived next doors than
two doors away, or end of the hall, respectively.
How does it work?
• We have increased opportunity to meet people who live close to us.
Proximity makes contact more likely.
• We tend to like novel stimuli more after we have been repeatedly
exposed to them (mere exposure)
o Mere Exposure Effect
The tendency for novel (new) stimuli to be liked more after we have been
repeatedly exposed to them.
• Correlation between frequency of exposure and how much we like
items in a given domain. • We like apples more than grapefruits and broccoli more than leeks
because we are more exposed to apples and broccoli in North
• Does exposure lead to liking? Or liking lead to exposure?
Better Correlational Evidence
• People prefer letters in the English alphabet that appear more often
o Hard to imagine that there are so many Es and Rs because
people like those letters. (more words have Es and Rs)
• We tend to prefer letters in our own names
o The name came first (from our parents), then the preference
for the letters.
• Randomly assigning people to view one stimulus (Chinese
alphabets) more than the other, they like the stimulus they were
exposed to more.
• Do we select dogs that look like us?
• 45 dogs and their owners photographed separately
• Judges shown one another, that owner’s dog, and one other dog.
• Task for participant: pick the true match.
o Observers were better able than chance to match the owner
with their dog
o Observers correct 64% of the time
o Results due to selection, not convergence; not due to
becoming more similar over time (ability to pair a person
with their pet was not associated with length of dog
ownership) - 2) Similarity
- Do opposites attract or do birds of a feather flock together?
- Empirical Evidence:
o 1000 married couples provided information about themselves on 88
o Average similarity of couples compared to similarity of random “couples”
o Actual couples more similar on 66/88 characteristics
o Most similarity for social class and religion.
o Interracial and interethnic couples are more similar to each other in personality
traits than couples of the same race and ethnicity.
o Possible compensation for dissimilarity on one dimension by seeking out
similarity on others.
- How does it work?
o Similarity facilitates smooth interactions (similar attitudes, less conflicts of
o We expect similar others to like us
o Similar others have qualities we like; dissimilar others are “unreasonable”.
- 3) Physical attractiveness
- What is beautiful?
o Facial symmetry: Preference for symmetrical faces (seen across cultures, ethnic
groups, etc). (1.618-1 ratio exists in all beautiful faces)
o Women: Large eyes, small nose, small chin, prominent cheekbones, high
o Men: large eyes, small nose, large chin
- Halo effect: the common belief (accurate or not) that attractive people possess a host of
positive qualities beyond their physical appearance. (attractive people tend to benefit
from the halo effect; very positive stereotype)
- We think attractive people: o Are happier
o Are more extraverted and sociable
o Are more popular
o Are more intelligent
o Make more money
- Kernel of Truth
o Highly attractive people do develop good social interaction skills and report more
satisfying interactions with others
o They are treated differently (due to the beauty is good stereotype)
o This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy
- Benefits of Attractiveness
o School work evaluated more favorably
o Earn more money (especially men)
o Receive more help from others (especially women)
o Receive lighter prison sentences
- Starts Early in Life
o Nurses are more responsive to “cuter” babies (cuter babies gained weight more
quickly and were discharged from the hospital faster).
o Attractive infants receive more playful attention from their mothers
o Attractive children are more popular in nursery school
- Don’t forget the power of situation!
o Lady in Red: there is a notion that red might make a woman more sexual. Red is a
symbol of love and passion.
o The Beer Goggle Effect: assumption that people increase in physical
attractiveness the more alcohol they drink.
o Bar Study: 103 women and men recruited from local bars near a university in the
Asked to rate other people’s attractiveness as three time points
• 9:00 pm