Influence of culture on romantic relationships

Essay on 'The influence of culture on romantic relationships'

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Discuss the influence of culture on romantic relationships
The evolutionary approach cannot explain cultural differences, as evolution happens to the species as
a whole. If love is universal, the evolutionary approach can explain it. It suggests that love is adaptive,
as it promotes reproduction, so love should be present across all cultures. Long term, committed
relationships benefit us, as they lead to lower mortality rates, increased happiness, and decreased
However, it could also be argued that there are in fact cultural differences in romantic relationships.
On the whole, people in Western cultures marry for love, but people in other cultures may marry for
other reasons, such as financial support or family connections, etc. Suri women, for example, wear lip
plates of varying sizes which indicate how many cattle her family expect to receive for her marriage.
In this case, the marriage is for gain. This suggests that the evolutionary approach is wrong.
Despite this, Janowiak and Fischer would argue that love is still universal. They studied non
Westerntribal societies and found clear evidence of romantic love in 90% of the 166 cultures
studied. This research supports the evolutionary approach, as despite the fact that the reasons for
marriage and exchanges within a relationship are different to those we find in Western culture, love
is still present across all cultures.
This research, while examining a relatively large sample of different cultures, is flawed in that it
hinges on how love is defined. Janowiak and Fischer may have defined love differently to how other
psychologists may have while conducting the same piece of research. Individual differences are
ignored. No one can define love absolutely, so their conclusions may differ to those of others,
meaning that the research's support for the evolutionary approach is weakened.
Bartles and Zeki found physical evidence of love in their research. They gave fmri scans to people
who were in love and found that a `functionally specialised system' area in the brain was activated
for people in love. This research supports the approach, as it provides evidence that our brains have
evolved to make us feel love and romance.
As this research provides support from the biological approach, which is scientific and falsifiable, it
adds strength to the evolutionary approach's claim. However, the findings could be misinterpreted-
the area of the brain found to activate may instead respond simply to things connected with love,
such as happiness. Feeling happiness does not necessarily mean that we are in love. Intervening
variables could have affected the results of this study, thereby weakening its support.
Moore and Leung also tested whether love is a Western concept. They compared Anglo-Australian
students with Chinese-Australian students and found that 61 % of the Anglo-Australians were in
romantic relationships compared to only 38% of the Chinese-Australian students. This suggests
support for cultural differences- in the Chinese culture, relationships outside of marriage are more
frowned upon, however it was also found that both groups had a positive view of romance. This
suggests that, again, there are cultural differences between the two, but love and romance are also
important to non-Western cultures.
The research supports the evolutionary approach, as there was little cultural difference in terms of
people's attitudes to love and romance. Even though less Chinese students were in romantic
relationships, this is not necessarily down to their own personal attitudes- they may simply be

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There is, however, a much smaller sample used in this
research, which diminished the support it provides.
The evolutionary approach is reductionist in that it reduces all romantic behaviour down to the
adaptive desire to reproduce and does not take into account the ideas of any other approach,
although to a lesser extent than others, as it has support from the biological approach. It is also
deterministic, stating that we will form romantic relationships because it is innate, and we will
reproduce.…read more


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