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Two explanations have been proposed for the formation of relationships: the `filter model' and the
The filter model proposed by Kerckhoff and Davis (1962) claimed that people rely on a number of
social and personal factors to filter potential relationships from a `field of eligible'. Different criteria
tend to be used at different stages (shared social/demographics initially, moving on to similarity of
attitudes and finally complementarity of needs). It appears that factors that benefit us in some way
determine who we form relationships with. Relationships with similar to us are easier and more
rewarding while complementarity of needs is clearly advantageous. We use these factors to filter
those who we are willing to form relationships with and those who are not.
Supporting evidence for the filter model comes from Kerckhoff and Davis (1962), who conducted a
longitudinal study with student couples who had been together for more or less than 18 months.
Attitudes and personality similarity with partners were reported on questionnaires completed over a
period of 7 months. It was found that attitude similarity was the most important factor up to 18 months
into a relationship. After this time, psychological compatibility and meeting each other's needs became
important, supporting the `filter model'. It was concluded that attitude similarity was the most
important factor for a successful relationship consequently these findings increase the credibility of the
filter model in the explanation of the formation of relationships.
Moreover an advantage of this study is that it was a longitudinal study because it was conducted over
a period of seven months so this means that the same participants were used, so it was easier to
observe the development trends of a relationship being formed, this therefore increases the credibility
of the findings as well as the explanation that it supports towards the formation of relationships.
However a disadvantage of the study is population validity as it only looks at student couples, this is an
issue as the findings may not be able to generalise to adult relationships, and as a result this decreases
the credibility of the findings of the study as well as the explanation of the filter model.
Similarly, the reward/need theory argues that a relationship is more likely to be formed if it meets the
needs of the partners and provides rewards. It is in this context that it is possible to explain the
formation of relationships by referring to the principles of classical and operant conditioning. If we
associate people with certain characteristics with pleasant experiences therefore we will seek their
company. In addition, we also find rewarding having our needs met so we will seek to form
relationships with people who can meet our needs. Biological and social needs are met through
activities we can engage in the company of these people. For example, being comforted, receiving
approval or engaging in sexual activity.
Furthermore supporting evidence for the reward/need theory by classical conditioning comes from
Veitch and Griffin (1976), because they arranged a situation in which pps waited in an experimenter's
office while the experimenter went on an errand. The radio was left on and, in the time alone, pps
heard two news broadcasts. They were either good or bad news. When the experimenter returned the
pps were asked to: Fill in a `feelings scale' (to assess their emotional state), Read a (attitudes)
questionnaire supposedly filled in by a stranger, Fill in an `interpersonal judgement scale' to rate the
supposed stranger. The pps exposed to good news reported significantly more positive feelings than
those who listened to the bad news. In addition, `good news' pps felt significantly more attracted to the
stranger. It was concluded that someone who has been exposed to a positive reinforcement, are more
likely to have positive feelings and so want to form a relationship which support the reward/need
theory. Consequently these findings increase the credibility of the reward/need theory as the findings
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of the study support the explanation of reward/need theory towards the explanation of the formation of
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one was in a car accident but someone helped them they will then view this person in a positive way
as they presented a positive behaviour.
These theories are over simplistic as it ignores the biological and emotional side of human existence.
This mean that genetic and /or any biological factors are ignored. For example the evolutionary
approach suggests that we have genetic predisposing to engage in certain behaviours when forming a
certain relationship.…read more