Formation of romantic relationships: reward/need satisfaction theory

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Psychology unit 3 relationships revision
Formation of romantic relationships: reward/need satisfaction theory
This is a behavioural explanation that states that relationships form if the
perceived benefits out way the perceived costs. We are attracted to people who
we find satisfying and gratifying to be with. In terms of operant conditioning,
people provide stimuli that can be either rewarding or punishing. Examples of
rewards include the need for company, financial security and an attractive
partner. Examples of punishments include conflicts, arguments, lack of freedom
and a risk of jealousy. Mutual attraction occurs when a partner can meet the
needs of the other partner. In terms of operant conditioning, relationships form as
both partners can reinforce each other's needs such as a woman wanting
companionship and a man being able to give this. In terms of classical conditioning,
we associate people with our feelings at the time we meet them. Therefore if we
are happy at the time we meet them, we will associate that person with happiness.
That person will then be seen as the person who causes our happiness.
Supported by research: one study involved the participants performance on a
creative task being rated by an experimenter and later they would be asked how
much they liked the experimenter. Participants who received positive feedback
earlier were more likely to rate the experimenter higher. The aspect of getting
rewarded supports the operant conditioning part of the theory. However, in real
life relationships are different to doing creative tasks so we can't be sure if it
plays a large role in the formation of relationships. Argyle also supports the
theory by saying people who laugh and smile a lot (most rewarding) are the ones
who are liked the most.
Hays found it is best to have a balance of rewards and costs in a long term
relationship but the theory only focuses on what individuals take from a
relationship. Therefore the theory can't explain attraction in a long term
The theory says we will form relationships with anyone who is rewarding but we
don't as people don't form relationships with prostitutes.
Reinforcement is not an important factor in determining the strength of a
relationship between parents and children, suggesting other factors influence the
formation of relationships and so the idea of rewards and punishments may be too
Doesn't explain attraction of long term relationships as a person needs to be
exposed to the rewards regularly for associations to develop.

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Psychology unit 3 relationships revision
Only apply to westernised cultures as they tend to be individualistic where
people are focused on their own personal gains. In other countries people make
sacrifices for the gain of the whole group. Hill found that kinship bonds aren't
reliant on reinforcement for black Americans.…read more


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