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Theories of Attraction
 Attraction as an Attitude
 Balance Theories
 Reinforcement/Reward Theories
 Similarity
 Arousal Theories
 Fatal Attractions
Theories of Attraction
 Attraction as an Attitude- an orientation toward
or away from a person that consists of a
cognitive structure of beliefs and knowledge
about the person, affect felt and expressed
toward him or her, and behavioral tendencies to
approach or avoid that person.
 Balance Theories
Life is simpler and attraction is greater when
people and things are in harmony
Research indicates attitude alignment as support of
this theory (see page 25)
Theories of Attraction
 Reinforcement/Rewards Theories
Classical Conditioning
Operant Conditioning
Two stimuli are associated through pairing and
eventually through association both stimuli elicit
the same response
Attraction is based on rewards and punishments
Exchange Theory
Similarity Theory
 Birds of a feather flock together
 Attraction increases in direct proportion to
increases in similarity between participants and
strangers (Byrne & Nelson, 1965)
 Three Areas of Similarity that Increase Liking
 Demographic Similarity
 Attitudes and Values
 Personality
Similar cognitive complexities
Similar emotional styles
Attachment styles
Similarity: Liking People Like Us
 Three Phases of Relationship Development
Stimulus- information about obvious attributes
such as sex, age, appearance
Value- information about attitudes, beliefs, and
Role- information about compatibility in life task
roles (parenting, marriage, careers)
Similarity: Liking People Like Us
 Attraction is Likely to Influence Similarity
 People who are attracted become more similar
 Discovering Similarity Takes Time
 We rarely get to know our partner as well as we think we do.
 Misperceptions Linger (consider schoolmates)
Perceived Similarity is Dangerous
 There is a higher correlation between perceived similarity
and marital satisfaction than between real similarity and
marital satisfaction.
 To some degree people seem to be married to illusory
images of their partners that portray them as similar
Arousal Theory
 According to Berscheid (1974), Passion &
Attraction are Rooted in:
1) physiological arousal
2) the belief that another person is the cause of
the arousal
Excitation Transfer- a type of misattribution in
which arousal caused by one stimulus combines
with additional arousal caused by a second
stimulus, but the first stimulus is ignored
 Laughter
 Fear
 Exercise
Fatal Attractions
 Fatal Attractions- qualities once seen as alluring
and fascinating in a romantic partner that are
often the same or very similar to those considered
flaws and weaknesses after a breakup
Dissimilarity between partners leads to more
breakups, especially when the qualities of
dissimilarity were ones that had attraction in the
first place.
The more unique or extreme a partner’s qualities
the more one might become disillusioned with them
Environment: Proximity
 To meet people is not necessarily to love them, but to
love them we must first meet them!
 Convenience
Proximity is rewarding, Distance is costly.
Absence does not seem to make the heart grow fonder
 Familiarity
 Mere exposure to someone usually increases our liking
and attraction for him or her.
 Power of Proximity
 Overexposure or saturation may not enhance attraction.
 Best conclusion from research is that proximity is that is
accentuates our feelings about others. Proximity (liking the
ones we are near)
Environment: Body Language
 Characteristics of Attractive Body Language
Facial Expression
Portrayal of Personality
Visual Interaction
Lean Forward
Body Orientation (eg. facing and arms)
Direct Gaze
Increased Frequency
Emotional Expression Through Body Language
Matching Hypothesis
 Partners in established relationships tend to have
similar levels of physical attractiveness. Why?
 The Matching Theory- a theory that suggests that
people usually pair off with others of similar status,
physical attractiveness, and various other assets and
Could be that similarity is rewarding; opposition is not.
When opposites attract people may be trading one asset
for another.
Matching based on the exchange of feminine beauty for
masculine status and resources is common place
Leading cause of sexual difficulty among married men is
the perception that their wife “let herself go” while they
still “look good’.
Mate Selection & Evolutionary Psychology
 Attraction is important to mate selection and
continuation of the race.
Charles Darwin & Natural Selection
 Parental Investment- proposes that men and
women have different reproductive strategies.
Women invest more in each single offspring
and therefore discriminate more
Women seem men with greater earning
Men discriminate less and seek physically
attractive mates (sign of health)
Evolutionary Psychology: Physical
 What is beautiful is good.
 If a person is viewed as physically attractive they will be
judged as:
 Kind, Strong, Outgoing, Nurturant, Sensitive, Sexually
Warm and Responsive, Interesting, Sociable, Exciting
 Who is pretty?
 Women: (baby faced); symmetrical face, large eyes,
small nose and chin, and full lips. Idea is that they
appear feminine and youthful.
 Babies prefer these faces
 Men: symmetrical face, strong jaws, broad foreheads –
who look strong and dominant (George Clooney)
 If you make the average male face for feminine then they
are considered more attractive (warm and friendly
(Leonardo DiCaprio)
Support of the Evolutionary
 Despite cultural differences people around the world
agree on what is attractive
Babies are born with preferences for the same faces
that adults find attractive
People with symmetrical faces that we find attractive
enjoy greater mental health and make better mates
Waist-to-Hip ratios found to be most attractive are
associated with greater physical health
Physical attractiveness matters more to people who
live in equatorial regions of the world where there are
more parasites and pathogens that endanger good
Who has Bias for Beauty
 Men prefer an attractive mate more often
than women
 High Self- Monitors (individuals who are sensitive to the
impressions they make on others and regulate their social behavior to
meet the demands of different social situations)
attractive person
prefer a more
Costs and Benefits of Beauty
 Benefits
 Beautiful people get more dates. Attractive women
generally talk more and are more involved.
 Handsome men receive more smiles, talk, and positive
feelings from others.
 There is no correlation between a women’s beauty
and the amount of time she spends talking to men.
However, men’s looks are correlated with the number
and length of interactions they have with women.
 More attractive people tend to be less lonely.
 Some studies suggest that attractiveness can account
for 10% of the variability in peoples adjustment and
well being over their lifetime.
Costs and Benefits of Beauty
 Costs
Attractive people are lied to more often
Less likely to trust other people
Compliment result of looks or abilities
 Contrast Effect- perceptual phenomenon in
which a given object is perceived differently
depending on the other objects to which it is
 HDTV and Pornography
So What Do Men and Women Want
 Research Indicates that There Are Three
Qualities that Are Sought Out In Partners
Warmth and Kindness
Desirable Personality
To Be Liked in Return