Formation and Maintenance of Relationships essay


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Describe and evaluate the theory's relating to the formation and maintenance of relationships
(24 marks)
A number of theories have looked at how romantic relationships are formed, as well as why
individuals persist in relationships. Byrne and Clore (1970) are one of many psychologists who have
looked at why relationships start off in the first place. They created the reward/need satisfaction
model which suggests that we spend so much time in social relationships because we find them
rewarding or that life without them would be unpleasant or unrewarding. Some partners meet our
psychological needs, which is rewarding as it is a positive reinforcement (operant conditioning) or we
may associate them with pleasant circumstances (classical conditioning), and so we decide to form a
relationship with that particular person. Argyle identified seven motivational systems which he claims
are at the roots of social behaviour and of why we stay in relationships, which shows clear evidence
for the reward/need satisfaction model. One need would include: self-esteem and ego identity
(receiving compliments by partner to make you feel good). If these needs are met we are more
likely to stay in the relationship as they bring positive reinforcements. Positive and negative
reinforcements bring rewards as they make us feel satisfied (the need has been met) and therefore
we seek to be in relationships because they meet our everyday needs which are rewarding and
make life better. May and Hamilton show support for the model as they showed that positive affect
(feeling/emotion) can lead to attraction which then leads to a relationship forming. They asked
female students to say how much they liked the look of male strangers whose photographs they
were given. Some students looked at the photographs while listening to pleasant music, while
others did this whilst unpleasant music was being played. Those students who had heard pleasant
music while looking at the photographs liked the men best and rated them as better looking. So this
shows that when you're in a happy state and in a good mood, you are likely to be more attracted to
the opposite sex which can, in turn, lead to starting a relationship as you have associated the two
factors together. However, this experiment only used female participants and can therefore be seen
as being beta biased as it ignores how males may react in this situation; if they would also find
women more attractive when they are in a happy and pleasant state or not is not known. So this
means that we cannot generalise these findings to males.
Another theory that gives explanations as to why people form relationships is the matching
hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that people pair up with those who are similar to themselves in
terms of their physical attractive. Support for this theory was developed by Murstein (1972) who
claimed that individuals' first attraction towards each other in the formative stages of a relationship
formation depends on the indications of their social desirability (e.g. physical appearance). Physical
attractiveness is the main factor in being desirable and it's the main indicator of a relationship
forming because it is an easy way for each partner to rate the other person as a possible partner. As
physical attraction is a key determinant, it shows that people do look at appearance first and maybe
then decide whether they are similar in levels of attractiveness or not. Walster et al (1966) carried
out an experiment to find out whether this hypothesis was true or false. He conducted a dance study
but actually found that regardless of their similarity in their physical attractiveness, participants
reacted more positively to physically attractive dates, and so disproves the matching hypothesis.
However, it does still point out the fact that physical attractiveness is a key factor of social
desirability and so is very important in deciding whether or not a relationship would form.
Nevertheless, the study may be seen as being nomothetic as it looks at a small group of people
(students) and generalises the findings to a wider population. This can be a big problem as other
groups of people such as older people may show different results; having gone through a series of

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This means for those types of people, physical
attractiveness may not be such an important factor and so their results may differ (e.g. they may not
show preference to those dates that were more attractive). However, the participants weren't
given time to get to know each other's personality and so that may have been why they decided to
just go for looks.…read more

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The investment model has also been supported by numerous other studies. Le and Agnew (2003)
highlighted the model's relevance for participants from different ethnic groups and both homosexual
and heterosexual relationships. However, the relative importance of the three proposed
components of commitment differed for different participant groups; some showed alternatives to
be the most important factor, other's showed that investment was the most important one.…read more



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