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Social Psychology
(Pp 321-339)
Elliot Aronson
University of California, Santa
Timothy D. Wilson
University of Virginia
Robin M. Akert
Wellesley College
6th edition
Close Relationships
• A researcher can’t randomly assign you to the similar or
dissimilar “lover” condition and make you have a
• Feelings and intimacy associated with close
relationships can be difficult to measure.
• Psychologists face a daunting task when trying to
measure such complex feelings as love and passion.
Defining Love
Companionate Love
The intimacy and affection we feel when we care
deeply for a person but do not experience
passion or arousal in the person’s presence.
Passionate Love
An intense longing we feel for a person, accompanied by
physiological arousal; when our love is reciprocated,
we feel great fulfillment and ecstasy, but when it is not,
we feel sadness and despair.
Source of “hot” image: Microsoft Office Online.
Companionate Love
People can experience companionate love
in nonsexual relationships, such as close
friendships, or in sexual relationships,
where they experience great feelings of
intimacy (companionate love) but not a
great deal of the heat and passion they
may once have felt.
Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Passionate Love
Passionate love involves an intense longing
for another person, characterized by:
• The experience of physiological arousal,
• The feeling of shortness of breath, and
• Thumping heart in loved one’s presence.
Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Passionate Love
Reviewing the anthropological research on 166 societies,
William Jankowiak and Edward Fischer (1992) found
evidence for passionate love in 147 of them (Table
Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Culture and Love
Although love is a universal emotion, how we experience
it (and what we expect from close relationships) is
linked to culture.
• For example, the Japanese describe amae as an
extremely positive emotional state in which one is a
totally passive love object, indulged and taken care of
by one’s romantic partner, much like a mother-infant
relationship. Amae has no equivalent word in English or
in any other Western language.
Culture and Love
• Participants in the United States, Italy, and China
sorted more than a hundred emotional words into
categories; their analysis indicated that love has similar
and different meanings cross-culturally.
• The most striking difference was the presence of a “sad
love” cluster in the Chinese sample.
• The Chinese had many love-related concepts that were
sad, such as words for “sorrow-love,” “tenderness-pity,”
and “sorrow-pity.”
• Although this “sad love” cluster made a small
appearance in the U.S. and Italian samples, it was not
perceived as a major aspect of love in these Western
Culture and Love
• In many areas of West Africa, happily married couples
do not live together in the same house, nor do they
expect to sleep together every night.
• Marrying for love is most important to participants in
Western and Westernized countries (e.g., the United
States, Brazil, England, and Australia) and of least
importance to participants in less developed Eastern
countries (i.e., India, Pakistan, and Thailand).
In Western cultures, people marry the one they love; in
other cultures, people love the one they marry
Culture and Love
• Love can vary in definition and behavior in different
• We all love, but we do not necessarily all love in the
same way—or at least we don’t describe it in the same
• Romantic love is nearly universal in the human species,
but cultural rules alter how that emotional state is
experienced, expressed, and remembered.
Love and Relationships
• Are the causes of love similar to the causes of initial
• How do the factors we discussed earlier as
determinants of first impressions play out in intimate
• And do other variables come into play when we are
developing and maintaining a close relationship?
Evolution and Love:
Choosing a Mate
Evolutionary Approach to Love
A theory derived from evolutionary biology that holds that
men and women are attracted to different characteristics
in each other (men are attracted by women’s
appearance; women are attracted by men’s resources)
because this maximizes their chances of reproductive
Evolutionary Psychology
The attempt to explain social behavior in terms of
genetic factors that evolved over time according
to the principles of natural selection.
This Is Your Brain…In Love
fMRI research found:
• When looking at their beloved compared to when
looking at someone else, participants who self-reported
higher levels of romantic love showed greater activation
in the brain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the
caudate nucleus, which communicate with each other
as part of a circuit.
• A great deal is already known about what causes these
areas of the brain to fire (ie cocaine, chocolate,
gambling) and what kind of processing they do—and
now, this knowledge can be applied to the experience
of passionate love.
Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Attachment Styles
in Intimate Relationships
Attachment Styles
The expectations people develop about relationships
with others, based on the relationship they had with
their primary caregiver when they were infants.
Types of Relationships
(Between Infants/Mothers)
Secure Attachment Style
An attachment style characterized by trust, a lack of
concern with being abandoned, and the view that one
is worthy and well liked.
Avoidant Attachment Style
An attachment style characterized by a suppression of attachment
needs, because attempts to be intimate have been rebuffed;
people with this style find it difficult to develop intimate
Anxious/Ambivalent Attachment Style
An attachment style characterized by a concern that
others will not reciprocate one’s desire for intimacy,
resulting in higher-than-average levels of anxiety.
Attachment Style Combinations
Anxious and avoidant people become couples because
they both match each other’s relationship schema:
• Anxious people expect to be more invested in their
relationships than their partners.
• Avoidant people expect to be less committed than their
• However, anxious-avoidant pairs report little satisfaction
with their relationships
• Attachment theory does not mean that if people had
unhappy relationships with their parents, they are
doomed to repeat this same kind of unhappy
relationship with everyone they ever meet.
• People can and do change; their experiences in
relationships can help them learn new and more healthy
ways of relating to others than what they experienced as
• Research findings in attachment theory can help you
understand your behavior and your partner’s behavior
when you find yourself having problems
Social Exchange in
Long-Term Relationships
• Couples were found to focus more on rewards during
the first months of their relationships.
• If the relationships were perceived as offering a lot of
rewards, the people reported feeling happy and
satisfied. The perception of rewards continued to be
important over time.
• At seven months, couples who were still together
believed their rewards had increased over time.
Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Social Exchange in
Long-Term Relationships
Of course, we know that many people do not leave their
partners, even when they are dissatisfied and their
other alternatives look bright.
Research indicates that we need to consider at least one
additional factor to understand close relationships—a
person’s level of investment in the relationship…
Investment Model (Caryl Rusbult)
The theory that people’s commitment to a relationship
depends not only on their satisfaction with the
relationship in terms of rewards, costs, and comparison
level and their comparison level for alternatives but also
on how much they have invested in the relationship that
would be lost by leaving it.
The Investment Model of Commitment
A Test of the Investment Model, Rusbult (1983)
Summary of Investment Model
To predict whether people will stay in an intimate
relationship, we need to know:
(1) How satisfied they are with the relationship,
(2) What they think of the alternatives, and
(3) How great their investment in the relationship is.
Equity in Long-Term Relationships
Does equity theory operate in long-term relationships the
same way it does in new or less intimate relationships?
Not exactly:
The more we get to know someone, the more reluctant we
are to believe that we are simply exchanging favors and
the less inclined we are to expect immediate
compensation for a favor done.
Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Exchange & Communal
Exchange Relationships
Relationships governed by the need for
equity (i.e., for an equal ratio of rewards
and costs).
Communal Relationships
Relationships in which people’s primary
concern is being responsive to the other
person’s needs.
Ending Intimate Relationships
The current American divorce rate is nearly 50 percent of
the current marriage rate and has been for the past two
And of course, countless romantic relationships between
unmarried individuals end every day.
After many years of studying what love is and how it
blooms, social psychologists are now beginning to
explore the end of the story—how it dies.
Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Steps in Dissolving Close Relationships
The Process of Breaking Up
Caryl Rusbult’s identified four types of behavior that occur in
troubled relationships.
Destructive behaviors
• Actively harming the relationship (e.g., abusing the partner,
threatening to break up, actually leaving).
• Passively allowing the relationship to deteriorate (e.g.,
refusing to deal with problems, ignoring the partner or
spending less time together, putting no energy into the
Constructive behaviors
• Actively trying to improve the relationship (e.g., discussing
problems, trying to change, going to a therapist).
• Passively remaining loyal to the relationship (e.g., waiting
and hoping that the situation will improve, being supportive
rather than fighting, remaining optimistic).
The Process of Breaking Up
Femlee (1998) explored exactly what qualities, in close
relationships, turn out to be fatal attractions
• The person is different from you in a specific way
• The person is different from you because s/he has a
quality that is unique in a general sense
• The person is different from you because s/he has a
quality that is extreme in a general sense
The Experience of Breaking Up
• Can we predict the different ways people will feel when
their relationship ends?
• The breakers, those who indicated a high level of
responsibility for the breakup, decision feel less distress
over the breakup than do the breakees, the ones they
break up with.
Importance of Remaining Friends After the Breakup
The Experience of Breaking Up
The breakup moral:
If you find yourself in a romantic relationship and your
partner seems inclined to break it off, try to end it
Your experience will be less traumatic because you will
share some control over the process (even if you don’t
want it to happen).
The End