PSYA3 evolutionary theory of relationships

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The matching hypothesis
In romantic relationships, people pair w/those
similar in physical attractiveness.
Walster et al.'s matching hypothesis of attraction
explains why people who are similar end up together.
1. the more socially desirable a person (attractiveness, social status, intelligence etc.)
the more desirable they'd expect a dating/marriage partner to be
2. Couples matched (i.e. both desirable) most likely to have happy,
enduring relationships than couples mismatched in terms of social desirability.
People seeking a partner are influenced by:
the desirability of the potential match (what they want)
the chance the other says yes (what they think they can get).
Walster called this realistic choices b/c each person is
influenced by the chances of having their affection reciprocated.
What makes a person socially desirable?
Murstein argues initial attraction in formation of a relationship depends on cues of social
desirability (e.g. attractiveness). Physical attractiveness largely determines courtship
desirability b/c it's an accessible way to rate ea other as a potential mate.
So a person's initial attraction toward a certain target, should largely be determined by the
comparison between the targets attractiveness and their own.
The dance study ­ Walster et al
found that Ps matched with a random date, regardless of their own attractiveness, reacted
most positively to physically attractive dates, and were more likely to arrange more dates
Other factors e.g. personality didn't affect liking.
the physical attractiveness effect predominated over a matching effect or any concern about
Matching in the real world
However, research by Cavior + Boblett found stronger matching effect among more
committed couples (e.g. married) than for less committed couples (i.e. casual daters).
there's stronger evidence for the matching hypothesis found in correlational studies done
w/actual couples in the real world.
the attractiveness level of ea. partner was measured via photos.
+results showed high similarity between partners' levels of physical attractiveness.

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Evaluation of the matching hypothesis
Complex matching ­
Although the m. hypothesis holds people pair w/those of similar `social
desirability', over time people now match based on physical attractiveness
However, people may compensate for a lack of attractiveness w/a positive personality,
status, money etc. this is termed `complex matching' (Hatfield + Sprecher).
e.g. when an older, wealthy man pairs w/a younger, attractive woman.…read more

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The maintenance of romantic relationships
Social exchange theory
social behaviour is viewed as a series of exchanges between people.
Each person attempts to:
maximize their rewards + minimize costs.
Rewards are exchanges that are pleasurable/gratifying. eg. company, sex.
Costs are exchanges that result in a loss or punishment e.g. loss of opportunities for other
relationships or abuse.
Rewards ­ costs = outcomes (profits).…read more

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People maximize rewards + minimize negative experiences in any relationship.
2. rewards are negotiated to ensure fairness. e.g. through favours and privileges.
3. Inequitable/unfair relationships produce dissatisfaction.
4. If the 'loser' feels there's a chance to restore fairness + is motivated to save the
relationship, he/she will attempt to reestablish equity
the greater inequity perceived, the greater the effort to maintain the relationship.
Evaluation of equity theory
studies on exchange theories have contrived methodologies w/little ecological validity.…read more

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Commitment' describes the likelihood a relationship will persist.
It's strengthened by satisfaction in a relationship and weakened by potential alternative
Rusbult suggests investment increases commitment.
is a product of the outcomes of a relationship (rewards cost)
Outcomes are compared to a personal standard of acceptable outcomes.
If outcomes surpass comparison level they're satisfied w/the relationship.
If they fall short, then they're dissatisfied.
Quality of alternatives
A person may desire a relationship with an attractive alternative.…read more

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Evaluation of Rusbult's investment model
Research support
Le + Agnew's metaanalysis highlighted the model's relevance for Ps from different
ethnicities and both homo+heterosexual relationships. However, the 3 components of
commitment (likelihood of remaining in a relationship) differed for different groups.
Commitment in abusive relationships
Rusbult + Martz applied the model here. Women in refuges asked why they stayed w/
abusive partners instead of leaving once abuse began.…read more

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The breakdown of romantic relationships
Breakup may be very emotionally demanding.
For some, it's a catastrophe, for others it provides an opportunity for a new start.
A relationship may end although both partners with it to continue or develop (e.g. lovers
separated by parents, geography).
A model of relationship breakdown (Rollie & Duck)
focuses on the processes that typify breakdown.
Processes may overlap or have common features, but also have diff. durposes and
so diff. consequences.
1. Breakdown ­ 1 partner is increasingly dissatisfied w/relationship.…read more


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