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Outline and evaluate explanations into the formation of romantic
relationships. (24 Marks)
Most stimuli in our lives are rewarding or punishing in some way. Therefore we seek
rewarding stimuli and avoid punishing stimuli. Most rewarding stimuli represent our
unmet needs for example the need for company, financial security and an attractive
partner. Mutual attraction occurs when one person fulfils the other person's needs.
Rewarding stimuli initiate positive feelings within us whilst punishing stimuli initiate
negative feelings within us. According to Byrne and Clore's `Need/Satisfaction
theory' we enter into relationships whereby some individuals are directly associated
with reinforcement (i.e. they initiate positive feelings within us) and so they become
more attractive to us.
There is research support for the `Need/Satisfaction Theory.' Cate et al asked 337
individuals to assess their existing relationships in terms of reward level and
satisfaction. The results found that reward levels was the most superior out of all
other factors in determining relationship satisfaction. This therefore increases the
reliability of the `Need/Satisfaction Theory' and does explain why we form romantic
Further research support comes from Griffitt and Guay whereby `experimenters'
judged participants on a creative task. The pps were then asked to rate how much
they liked the experimenter. The ratings were the highest when the experimenters
positively evaluated (rewarded) the pps performance on the task.
Due to this, there is research support for this theory through greater Facebook use.
Sheldon et al. discovered that greater Facebook use was positively correlated with
positive feelings of connectedness and negative indicators of relationship
satisfaction (feelings of disconnectedness).
However, this theory ignores gender differences. Lott argues that women are
socialised into taking care of the needs of others and so feel less concerned by trying
to gratify their own needs. Thus, this study reduces the reliability of this explanation
into why we form romantic relationships.
Also, Hays argues that in real life relationships we strive for equity and fairness and
feel less concerned with trying to gain the benefit of rewards. Thus, we don't form
relationships to gain the benefits associated with reinforcement, but in fact we form
romantic relationships which are based on equity and fairness.
In the `Matching Hypothesis' Walster et al. uses two specific hypothesises which are
based on the idea of the more socially desirable a person is, the more they would
expect their dating or marriage partner to be and couples who are matched have
long and enduring relationships than couples who are mismatched in terms of social
desirability. Therefore, individuals looking for a partner are influenced by both the
desirability of the potential match (what they want) and the probability of the
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This is known as realistic choices as
individuals are influenced by the chances of their feelings being reciprocated.
There is research support for this theory. Walster et al. invited 752 student
undergraduates from Minnesota University to a `get acquainted' dance. They were
told that they were `matched' to their partners but in fact they were randomly
allocated to their pairs. The success of the matches was then measured using a
questionnaire during a break in the dance and then in a six month follow up.…read more