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Chapter 12

Psychology 2075 Chapter 12: Chapter 12 Attraction, Love and Communication

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Western University
Psychology 2075
William Fisher

Chapter 12 Attraction, Love, and Communication ATTRACTION The Girl Next Door • Geography and time limit our opportunities to meet people • Mere-exposure effect: repeated exposure to any stimulus, including a person, leads to greater liking for that stimulus Birds of a Feather • We tend to like people who are similar to us • We are attracted to people who are approximately the same as we are in age, ethnicity, background, and economic and social status • Similarity on these social characteristics is referred to as homophily, the tendency to have contact with people equal in social status o When a person marries someone with whom they share important characteristic, it is called homogamy • The greatest homophily is by race/ethnicity, followed by education and age • Couples are least likely to be the same on religion • Short-term relationships are as homophilous as marriages and common-law relationships • Educational homophily has been increasing (54% of Canadians have same education level) • One of the reasons for homophily by ethnicity is that persons from ethnocultural minorities have tended to live in socially and economically separate communities • Byrne has done experiments demonstrating that we are attracted to people whose attitudes and opinions are similar to ours o Participants showed more liking for a person whose responses are similar to theirs than for one whose responses are quite different on the questionnaires given • The relationship between similarity and liking may also work in the opposite direction o Research showed that the more satisfied individuals are with their relationship, the more they assume the other person is similar to them • Despite the saying “Opposites attract”, dissimilar attitudes tend to cause disliking, not liking o Nonetheless, we may be attracted to people whose interpersonal styles are dissimilar to our own ▪ In one study, dominant people paired with submissive people reported greater satisfaction with their relationship • Perhaps some traits are more important to be similar than others o Research discussed so far argues that similarity in attitudes is important, but similarity in personality is not o These predictions were tested in research involving newly married heterosexual couples o Researchers calculated couple similarity scores on numerous measures in the three domains o They compared these real-couple scores with mean scores of randomly paired couples o As predicted, real couples were significantly more similar in values, religiosity, and political attitudes, but no more similar than random couples on personality • The NHSLS found that couples are similar in age, race and education o Could this homophily account for similiarity in attitudes? ▪ Researchers tried to predict similiarity in attitudes and personality from similarity in background characteristics but could not • Similarity on attachment styles was associated with indicators of marital satisfaction, but similarity in attitudes was not Physical Attractiveness • Gay, lesbian, and straight individuals prefer a partner who is more physically attractive, given a choice of more than one potential partner o Research shows this is true in children as young as 3-6 • Physical attractiveness is one aspect of sex appeal; young men and women typically rate physical appearance as most important o Other aspects include general body size and certain facial features • Research on the impact of lightness of skin on ratings of attractiveness among African Americans o Skin tone was strongly associated with attractiveness ratings o Light skin was rated more attractive, perhaps reflecting the use of white skin as the standard for attractiveness research • Though we are all attracted to better looking people, physical attractiveness is more important to males evaluating females than it is to females evaluating males • Our perception of attractiveness or beauty of another person is influenced by our evaluation of their intelligence, liking, and respect, as well as by our own objective attractiveness o This phenomenon is also somewhat modified by our own feelings of personal worth • Canadians on average give themselves as 6.7/10 in physical attractiveness, but rate their partners significantly higher (8/10) o Similar results found amongst gay and lesbians • Survey asking whether their perfect partner would have an ordinary face and extraordinary body, or an extraordinary face and an ordinary body o Twice as many women as men chose the extraordinary face (57% - 29%) The Interpersonal Marketplace • Who we are attracted to and pair off with depends a lot on how much we think we have to offer and how much we think we can “buy” with it o That is, people seek relationships in which there is equality and both partners receive the same balance of rewards and costs = the matching phenomenon o Generally, the pattern is that women’s worth is based on their physical beauty, whereas men’s worth is based on their success o In one study, females who were rated as the most attractive in high school were significantly more likely to have husbands who had high incomes and were highly educated From the Laboratory to Real Life • With respect to similarity, much of the research has focused on actual similarity – it is relatively easy to do this in the lab • Perceived similarity, the extent to which the individual believes his or her partner is similar on important characteristics – this research is usually done in field settings • A meta-analysis assessed the importance of actual and perceived similarity as measured in laboratory and field settings o In addition, researchers coded the amount of interaction participants experienced: no interaction, short interaction (10 mins), and existing relationship o The results indicated that both actual and perceived similarity are associated with interpersonal attraction; the associations were significant and large o Actual similarity was important in setting involving no or short interaction, that is, in the laboratory, but it was not related to attraction in existing relationships o Perceived similarity was associated with attraction in all three settings • With respect to the matching hypothesis, a series of studies combining data from the laboratory and an online dating site (everyday life) found that the nature and importance of matching varies as relationships develop • In predicting who individuals would choose from a set of potential partners, researchers found that each individual’s rating of self-worth predicted the level of physical and social attractiveness • Importantly, as the theory predicts, individuals who rated their self-worth low voluntarily selected less desirable partners o Thus, in a somewhat revised form, the importance of similarity and matching principles apply in everyday life as well as in the psychological laboratory Attraction Online • More than 800 dating websites • Four social forces are at work that are making this phenomenon grow • First, a growing proportion of the population is single, so more people are looking • Second, career and time pressures lead people to seek more efficient ways to look • Third, single people are highly mobile, increasing the difficulty of meeting people • Fourth, workplace romance is less acceptable because of concerns about sexual harassment • There is no longer stigma associated with meeting a partner online, and people feel free to tell their friends and family that they are using online dating • The internet also provides a mechanism for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals to meet people who share their sexual orientation o This is particularly important for youth or individuals in small communities who choose not to be open about their sexual orientation or do not want to risk experiencing rejection from an offline potential partner • Gay men and lesbians of all ages are more likely than heterosexuals are to meet and dorm an offline relationship with someone they met online • Surveys suggest that the people seeking partners online are educated, affluent, 20-40 year olds who do not have the time or the taste for singles bars Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Dating • Users say one advantage to meeting online is that the technology forces you to focus on the person’s interests and values • However, individuals who are in relationships that started online report lower relational intimacy than those who are in relationships that started face to face o Online, imagination heavy influences impressions, which can create a powerful attraction to the other • The relative lack of (reliable) information about the person you are chatting or exchanging emails with is the downside of meeting online o One quarter of Canadian online daters admit to having misrepresented themselves online o The tremendous variety of outcomes, including many that neither party wanted, reflects the lack of scripts for these dates The Science of Online Dating • Scientific approach to pairing clients – the most renowned is eHarmony o each site uses clients’ responses to an online questionnaire to match them o But each site has its own matching strategy o eHarmony uses a 436-question survey to assess a broad range of attitude, value and personality domains ▪ couples are matched based on relative similarity on each domain o Chemistry.com focuses on pairing adults who will experience a spark when they meet ▪ Uses a 146-question survey to measure these traits and infers the clients “chemistry” o PerfectMatch.com uses the Duet system, based on 48 questions assessing eight domains ▪ Believe a well-matched couple should be similar on romantic impulsivity, personal energy, outlook, and predictability, and different on flexibility, decision making style, emotionality, and self-nurturing style • In one study of Canadian online daters, only two-thirds of people using online dating services met even one person face to face o 27% of these people formed a romantic relationship o 3% married the person they met online Explaining Our Preferences Reinforcement Theory: Byrne’s Law of Attraction • We tend to like people who give us reinforcements or rewards, and to dislike people who give us punishments • The law of attraction says that our attraction to another person is proportionate to the number of reinforcements that person gives us relative to the total number of reinforcements plus punishments the person gives us o Ie. We like people who are frequently nice to us and seldom nasty • So most people prefer to interact with people who are similar to them because interaction with them is rewarding • The implicit egotism perspective states that we are attracted to persons who are similar to use because they activate our positive views of ourselves Sociobiology: Sexual Strategies Theory • Since women bear the offspring, men need to identify reproductively valuable women o Younger women are more likely to be fertile than older women o Other things being equal, a physically attractive person is more likely to be healthy and fertile than someone who is not physically attractive, thus the preference for good-looking partners ▪ Physical attractiveness expected to be more important in areas where chronic disease is more prevalent • Argued that the critical feature of an attractive face is symmetry • Fluctuating asymmetry, asymmetry of bilateral features that are on average symmetrical in the population, are said to reflect developmental instability (DI)– the inability of the developing body to buffer itself against random perturbations o Visible asymmetry in the face would reflect DI • Women must take a much greater personal investment than men to reproduce o Thus women select as mates men who are reproductively valuable ▪ Hence the preference for good looking mates o They also want mates who are able and willing to invest resources in them and their children o The matter of resources is more important than the problem of identifying a reproductively valuable male, so women rate income and earning potential as more important than good looks o Nowadays, women are placing less weight on men’s resources due to increasingly more women controlling their own resources and entering the workforce • These two theories (reinforcement and sociobiology) are not inconsistent with e/o INTIMACY • Intimate relationships are important to us for two reasons: o Desire to someday have children and the awareness that raising a child is a lot easier with two people o The other is to obtain the benefits of mutual trust and reciprocal recognition by another person Defining Intimacy • Perlan and Ferr propose that the defining features of intimacy include: openness, honesty, mutual self-disclosure, caring, warmth, protecting, helping, being devoted to each other, mutually attentive, mutually committed, surrendering control, dropping defuses, becoming emotional, feeling distressed when separation occurs • Intimate interactions include both intimate experiences and intimate behaviors o Intimate experiences are the meaning a person gives to their interactions with another person ▪ Usually associated with positive emotions o Intimate behaviors are more concrete – can be non-verbal, and include behaviors such as eye contact, smiling, physical closeness, or sexual activity ▪ The most common type of intimate behavior is verbal self-disclosure • Intimate relationships are the result of many intimate interactions with an individual and are typically characterized by love, affection, trust, sharing, and reci
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