Chapter 11: Interpersonal Attraction, Close Relationships and Groups
- There is a great deal of cultural variation in what is viewed as attractive, but there
are also numerous commonalities across culture in what is perceived as attractive.
- Commonalities in Attractiveness Across Cultures:
Complexion: free of blemishes, blotches, and rashes are viewed as more
○ People should be attracted to healthy mates who would likely produce
healthy offspring that would survive (evolutionary reasoning).
○ Blotches and blemishes could be indicators of parasites/diseases.
Bilateral Symmetry: most attracted to people whose left sides of their faces and
bodies look identical to their right sides.
○ It is an indicator of developmental stability.
○ Genetic mutation, pollution, pathogens and stresses encountered in the
womb can lead to development in asymmetrical ways.
○ Even more symmetrical scorpion flies are perceived more attractive.
Tend to be Average: facial features that are close to the average in size and in
configuration are perceived more attractive.
○ Average-size features are less likely to have genetic abnormalities than
people with deviant features, reflecting genetic health.
○ We can process quickly something that resembles a prototype and quick
processing is associated with good feelings and feelings of attraction.
○ People found biracial averaged faces the most attractive of all.
○ Only applicable to facial features and not our perception to bodies because
the kinds of bodies that tend to be most attractive are often those that
depart from average (weight, height, muscles, breasts, etc).
- Cultural differences in standards of beauty for female bodies differ not just across
historical context but across current cultural ones too.
Some cultures view the ideal female body to be far heavier (Africa) than what is
typically preferred among Westerners.
- Propinquity Effect: people are more likely to become friends with people with whom
they frequently interact (universal across cultures).
Our friendships are not so much chosen by us but are chosen by the situational
forces that bring us together (alphabetical order arrangement, people beside
you are more likely to become your friend).
Mere Exposure Effect: the more we are exposed to a stimulus the more we are
attracted to it (foreign words, music and people).
○ Due to the pleasant associations that we develop through classical
conditioning when we learn that a stimulus is not threatening to us and to
the pleasant affect associated with easy-to-process stimuli.
○ It is culturally universal.
- Similarity-Attraction Effect: people tend to be attracted to those who are more like
them (similar attitudes, economic background, personality, religion, etc).
North Americans and Japanese exhibit some form of similarity-attraction effect
1 but it is consistently stronger among North Americans than Japanese.
The similarity-attraction effect may be a functional universal because the
relation between self-esteem and liking similar partners is the same across
cultures; however, the cultural variation in the magnitude of the effect
demonstrates that it is not accessibility universal.
- Our relationships with others are concerns that dominate our lives (culturally
- Friends and Enemies
Quality of one’s friendships is one of the best predictors of happiness.
People with a more independent view of self perceive themselves as being
fundamentally disconnected from others and the only reasons such people
would form connections is because they would choose to do so (advantage in
○ Choosing a relationship is a mutually voluntary basis; one can choose to
make efforts to start a relationship or to dissolve a relationship.
People with a more interdependent view of self are defined primarily on the
basis of close relationships, exist by default and have no choice.
○ Relationships appear to be viewed in less conditional terms, having a fixed
Americans report having a larger number of friends than do Ghanaians because
the thought of someone having many friends is different across cultures.
○ Ghanaians emphasized that friends were people who would provide
practical support while Americans do not really emphasize on this.
○ For Ghanaians, a person with many friends is a person who has many
obligations and this would seem to underlie their relatively smaller
26% of Americans reported that they had enemies but 71% of Ghanaians
claimed that they were the target of enemies.
○ Americans are more likely to view their enemies as from outside their group
and Ghanaians were more likely to view their enemies as coming from
within their ingroups like friends, neighbours or relatives.
○ This may be because Ghanaians’ relationships are natural and “given” to
them by birth while Americans have a choice about their relationships.
Parents who did not feel especially strong love for their children were less likely
to have their children survive the tenuous circumstances of a subsistence
lifestyle; hence, those parents did not pass on as many surviving genes as did
those who felt strong feelings of love for their children.
Romantic love would become more important in cultures as the strength of
extended family ties become weaker and powerful feelings of romantic love
could be somewhat irrelevant for marriage in cultures with strong extended
Marriages based on love were more likely in cultures with nuclear family
2 structures than they were in cultures with extended family systems.
Individualism appears to be related to the likelihood that one emphasizes
romantic love in marriages.
When partners are viewed in ways that distort undesirable behaviours to more
positive qualities (from angry and hot-headed to emotional and carefree), the
relationship can be buffered against any ugly truths that might threaten it and
romantic love will thrive.
Idealizations of one’s romantic relationships appear to be more pronounced
among people from more individualistic cultures and idealization doesn’t predict
relationship longevity among people in collectivistic cultures.
Arranged marriages have traditionally been very common in the world, although
they are currently declining in popularity.
- Relations with Ingroups and Outgroups
The boundary distinguishing ingroups from outgroups would be salient for
members of interdependent cultures.
For independent cultures, new relationships can be formed and old relationships
can be dissolved without having a large impact on an independent person’s
perception of his/her identity.
Actor-Observer Bias: the tendency to see one’s own behaviour as best
explained by situational factors whereas the behaviour of others is better
explained by dispositional factors.