Course: PSYC*1000 (DE)
Professor: Harvey Marmurek
Schedule: Summer, 2012
Textbook: Psychology – Tenth Edition in Modules authored by David G. Myers
Textbook ISBN: 9781464102615
Module 46: Prosocial Relations
Social psychologists focus not ony on the dark side of social relationships, but also on the bright side, by studying
prosocial behaviour – behaviour that intends to help or benefit someone.
The Psychology of Attraction
Why do we befriend or fall in love with some people but not others?
Does familiarity breed contempt or does it intensify affection. Let’s consider three ingredients of our liking for one
another: proximity, attractiveness, and similarity.
Proximity: Proximity – geographic nearness – is friendship’s most powerful predictor. Proximity breeds liking
partly because of the mere exposure effect. Repeated exposure to novel stimuli increases our liking for them –
nonsense syllables, musical selections, geometric figures, Chinese characters, human faces, letters of our own
name. Taiwanese man who wrote more than 700 letters to his girlfriend – she married the mail carrier. Ancestors:
what was familiar was safe and approachable.
Online Matchmaking and Speed Dating:
• Men are more transparent. Observers watching videos of speed-dating encounters can read a man’s
level of romantic interest more accurately than a woman’s.
• Given more options, people’s choices become more superficial. Meeting lots of potential partners leads
people to focus on more easily assessed characteristics, such as height and weight. This was true even
when researchers controlled for time spent with each partner.
• Men wish for future contact with more of their speed dates: women tend to be more choosy. But this
gender difference disappears if the conventional roles are reversed, so that men stay seated while
Physical Attractiveness: Beauty is only skin deep; appearances can be deceiving. We like good-looking
dates best. Physical attractiveness predicts how often people date and how popular they feel. Attractive,
well-dressed people are more likely to make a favourable impression on potential employers, and they tend
to be more successful in their jobs. People’s attractiveness is surprisingly unrelated to their self-esteem and
happiness. Cultural ideals change over time. Spanning place and time, bodies influence sexual attraction.
Women are more attractive if they have a youthful, fertile appearance suggested by a low wait-to-hip ratio.
Women attracted to healthy-looking men and those who seem mature, dominant, masculine and affluent.
Our feelings influence our attractiveness judgments. Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind. Come
to love someone and watch beauty grow.
Similarity: in real life, opposites retract. The more alike people are, the more their liking endures. Love lasts
when the lovers love many things together, and not merely each other. Similarity breeds content.
Dissimilarity often fosters disfavour, which helps explain many straight men’s disapproval of gay men who
are doubly dissimilar from themselves in sexual orientation and gender roles. When we believe someone
likes us, we feel good and respond to them warmly, which leads them to like us even more. Reward theory
of attraction – we will like those whose behaviour is rewarding to us, and we will continue relationships that
offer more rewards than costs.
People tend to marry someone who lives or works nearby. This is an example of the mere exposure effect in action.
How does being physically attractive influence others’ perceptions?
Being physically attractive tends to elicit positive first impressions. People tend to assume that attractive people are
healthier, happier, and more socially skilled than others are.
How does romantic love typically change as time passes? Passionate Love: A key ingredient of passionate love is arousal. The two-factor theory of emotion can help us
understand this intense absorption in other. That theory assumes that:
• Emotions have two ingredients – physical arousal plus cognitive appraisal.
• Arousal from any source can enhance one emotion or another, depending on how we interpret and label the
Unlike unaroused men, the stirred up men attributed some of their arousal to the woman or girlfriend, and felt more
attracted to her. To be revved up and to associate some of that arousal with a desirable person is to feel the pull of
passion. Adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder.
Companionate Love: The intense absorption in the other, the thrill of the romance, the giddy ‘floating on a cloud’
feelings typically fade. As love matures, it becomes a steadier companionate love – a deep, affectionate
attachment. The flood of passion-facilitating hormones subsides and another hormone, oxytocin, supports feelings
of trust, calmness, and bonding with the mate. One key to a gratifying and enduring relationship is equity. Both
partners receive in proportion to what they give – chances for sustained and satisfying companionate love are good.
Self-disclosure is another key and so is positive support. Self-disclosing intimacy + mutually supportive equity =
enduring companionate love.
When are people most – and least – likely to help?
Altruism is an unselfish concern for the welfare of others.
Bystander Intervention: most commentators are outraged by bystanders apathy and indifference. Rather than
blaming the onlookers, Darley and Latane attributed their inaction to an important situational factor – the presence
of others. We will help only if the situation enables us first to notice the incident, then to interpret it as an emergency,
and finally to assume responsibility for helping. At each step, the presence of others can turn us away from the path
that leads to helping. Diffusion of responsibility – where people share responsibility for helping. The best odds of
our helping someone occur when:
• The person appears to need and deserve help
• The person is in some way similar to us
• The person is a woman
• We have just observed someone else being helpful
• We are not in a hurry
• We are in a small town or rural area
• We are feeling guilty
• We are focused on others and not preoccupied
• We are in a good mood.
Happiness breeds helpfulness. Helpfulness breeds happiness. People who give money away are happier than
those who spend it almost entirely on themselves.
Why didn’t anybody help Kitty Genovese? What social relations principle did this incident illustrate?
In the presence of others, an individual is less likely to notice a situation, correctly interpret it as an emergency, and
then take responsibility for offering help. The Kitty Genovese case demonstrated this bystander effect as each
witness assumed many others were also aware of the event.
The Norms for Helping
How do social exchange theory and social norms explain helping behaviour?
Why do we help? Self-interest underlies all human interactions, that our constant goal is to maximize rewards and
minimize costs. Accountants call it cost-benefit analysis. Philosophers call it utilitarianism. Social psychologists call it
social exchange theory. If the rewards exceed the costs, you will help. Through socialization, we learn the
reciprocity norm, the expectation that we should return help, not harm, to those who have helped us; compels us
to give about as much as we receive. We also learn a social-responsibility norm: that we should