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Psychology 137C: Intimate Relationships
Week 2, Lecture 1:
Theories of Intimate Relationships–
Part I
 Have you been watching the course videos?
Aren’t they awesome? They only get better!
The web site for the videos is:
You are responsible for everything discussed in
the text, even if I never mention it in class.
“Science is built up of facts, as a
house is built of stones; but an
accumulation of facts is no more
a science than a heap of stones is
a house.”
Henri Poincaré
What is a theory?
A theory is an interconnected set of beliefs,
knowledge, and assumptions that relate to
understanding a phenomenon.
A theory is a map.
Some maps are better than others, yes?
What does a good theory do?
Organizes existing knowledge.
Draws attention to important processes.
Explains important phenomena in an elegant,
‘parsimonious’ way.
Identifies specific predictions and hypotheses.
Guides measurement decisions.
Improves upon prior theory.
What does a good theory of
intimate relationships do?
Encompass the full range of possible predictors.
Specify mechanisms of change.
Account for variability between couples and
within couples over time.
Evolutionary Theory
“Humans seek particular mates
to solve specific adaptive
problems that their ancestors
confronted during the course of
human evolution; human mate
preferences and mate decisions
are hypothesized to be strategic
products of selection pressures
operating during ancestral
conditions” (Buss and Schmitt,
1993, p. 205)
David Buss
Assumptions of the Theory
Natural selection vs. Sexual selection
Psychological mechanisms
What they are, and what they are not.
The environment of evolutionary adaptedness
Theory of Parental Investment
How This Theory Guides
Predicting and explaining gender differences
Sexual vs. emotional infidelity
 Mate preferences
Accounting for cross-cultural similarities
Is this all too obvious?
The incredible stinky t-shirt studies
Evaluating Evolutionary
Links a wide range of variables.
Focuses more on gender differences that
variability within genders.
Focuses more on mate selection than on
how relationships change once they are
Attachment Theory
John Bowlby
The nature of the bonds
that we form with our
primary caregivers in
infancy shapes the
relationships that we have
throughout our lives.
Assumptions of Attachment
Attachment as necessary for survival of the
Secure base
 Source of information
Mental models
Mary Ainsworth
The Strange Situation
Attachment Styles
 Secure, Avoidant, Anxious/Ambivalent
Adult Attachment
I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable
depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t often
worry about being abandoned or about someone getting close to me.
I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult
to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them.
I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, love partners
want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.
I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often
worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or won’t want to stay
with me. I want to merge completely with another person, and this
desire sometimes scares people away.
How This Theory Guides
Implications of different attachment models for
adult behavior
Dimensions of attachment
 Avoidance
Stability and change in attachment over time
Sources of continuity
 Sources of change
Evaluating Attachment Theory
What CAN it explain?
Where do our standards and expectations for
intimacy come from?
 Why do some people tend to have the same
relationships over and over again?
What does it leave out?
Why are all of those secure people still breaking up?