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Chapter 5

PSYCH354R Chapter 5: PSYCH 354R - Chapter 5.docx


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Denise Marigold

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Chapter 5 – Attraction and Mate Selection
Attraction: The Basis for Liking Someone
- Attraction defined as the experience of evaluating another individual positively.
- When you like someone a lot, you would be responding to personal qualities of those
individuals – their personality.
- A study confirmed that we are attracted to people who have positive personality
characteristics and dislike people with negative ones.
- We appear to be more attracted to people who are good than people who
are fun.
- Study: Participants listened to four tapes of people auditioning for a trivia
contest and were most attracted to the person who did a great job on the audition
but also seemed to be a bit clumsy (spilled his drink at the end).
- The researchers labeled this the pratfall effect, and they suggested that
this explains why self-deprecating humor works.
- What we find attractive about other peoples personalities may not be how many
positive qualities they possess but, more specifically, how much their qualities resemble
our own (the reason the pratfall effect works).
- We may identify more with someone who generally does a good job but messes
up once in a while more than we identify with someone whose performance is
invariably excellent.
- Donn Byrne and his students studied this using the phantom other technique.
- Using this procedure, the researchers can manipulate whether the other
person shares all, some, or none of the participant’s attitudes.
- The more that people have in common with someone else, the more they
find that person attractive. The findings hold true even when the other
person is not a phantom.
- The effects of similarity are clearest when considering similarity in attitudes,
values, and background.
- Some have suggested that when it comes to personality, it is complementarity,
not similarity that matters.
- Sociologist Robert Francis Winch suggested that, far from being
attracted to similar others, we are instead attracted to people who possess
qualities we lack.
- There is some intuitive appeal to this idea but people do not report being
more attracted to individuals who they think have personality traits that
they lack themselves.
- Why, then, is there the common belief that opposites attract?
- One possibility is that some happy couples adopt complementary
patterns of behavior when they are together, even if they are both more
similar to each to other than they are to other people.
- Why should similarity in values and interests be so attractive?
- First, similar people are validating. Being with people who share our
beliefs and interests reinforces the idea that our beliefs and interests are
justifies and worthwhile, making us feel better about ourselves.

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- Second, people who are similar to us are easy to get along with.
- Third, we might be attracted to similar people because we expect they
are probably going to like us.
- Study: When the other person was recovering from a mental breakdown, the
more that person shared values with participants, the less participants liked them.
In other words, although we generally like similar others, we do not like them as
much when they are suffering or in pain, perhaps because they remind us of our
- All else being equal, humans and other animals prefer stimuli they have been exposed to
over stimuli they have never experienced.
- Robert Zajonc study: participants reported favoring the stimuli they were
exposed to more frequently.
- Zajonc labeled this the mere exposure effect the idea that simply being
exposed to something can make that thing intrinsically reinforcing.
- Repeated exposure to negative exposure or repeated exposure to neutral
stimuli accompanied by a negative one, does not lead to increased
- Sometimes what we know about another person includes what that person thinks of us.
Knowing that someone likes us and holds us in high esteem is a powerful reason to find
that person appealing.
- Study by Backman and Secord: Even though all the confederates had behaved
the same way, people reported more liking for their partners when they knew their
partners had thought well of them, and far less liking when their partners had been
- The effects of being liked on feelings of attraction are far stronger than
the effects associated with the qualities of the individual.
- However, not all liking is equally rewarded.
- Study by Aronson and Linder: The most-liked person was the person
whose opinions started out negative but who was gradually won over as
the experimental interaction progressed.
- It appears that approval from another person, while generally
rewarding, is most rewarding when it seems to be contingent on
our own behavior.
Romantic and Sexual Attraction
- What are the elements that make us want to go from just friends to more than friends?
This is the question of romantic attraction or sexual attraction, which we define as the
experience of finding someone desirable as a potential intimate partner.
- Researchers have asked college students what they are attracted to in a potential
romantic partner and one of the first qualities they list is physical appearance.
- Study by Walster: People who were assigned to physically attractive dates were
more likely to want to go out with them again, whereas people assigned to less
attractive dates were less likely to want to go out with them again. But which of
the other variables helped predict attraction in this situation? None of them. The
only thing that predicted the desire for a second date was physical appearance.
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