Factors affecting attraction - Filter Theory

  • Created by: frankie11
  • Created on: 26-04-19 11:49

Filter Theory

-          Filter Theory (Kirchhoff and Davies, 1962): these researchers suggested that there are factors that limit the choice of partners. We only become attracted to people who pass through a series of filters. Also, they suggested that these people come from the field of availables, even though we would prefer a partner from the field of desirables.

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Filter 1 - Social Demography

-          Social Demography: we are more likely to come into contact with somebody who shares a similar environment to us and who spends their time similarly to us. This can be determined by where we work, go to college, who we socialise with and where. This is linked to factors such as social class, education and economic status.

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Filter 2 - Attitudes

-          Attitudes: due to social demography, we are more likely to meet people who share similar core values to us. This means that we are more attracted to people who have the same beliefs and this may lead to a higher level of self-disclosure in the beginning of a relationship.

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Filter 3 - Complementarity

-          Complementarity: we are more attracted to people who can provide for our emotional needs. Also, differences between partners may actually be mutually beneficial. For example, if one partner enjoys organising events but the other one enjoys having them arranged for them then this would be a good match because the two partners complement each other. This is seen as important in the success of long-term relationships.

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Evaluative Research - Kirchhoff and Davies (1962)

-          Kirchhoff and Davies (1962): did a longitudinal questionnaire on student couples, who had been together for more or less than 18months. They asked questions about views on their relationships. They found that similarity in attitudes was the most important at the start of relationships but as the relationship developed, complementarity was more important. This suggests that as predicted by filter theory, people are more attracted to those who share similar attitudes and those who complement each other.

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Evaluative Research - Kirchhoff and Davies (1962)

-          This study is supported by research by Tylor in 2010. He found that 85% of Americans who had married in 1998 had married somebody from within their own ethnic group. This supports filter theory’s idea that social demographics can determine who you start a relationship with.


-          However, the study by Kirchhoff and Davies cannot be generalised to people outside young, educated Americans, suggesting that it lacks external validity.

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Building Evaluations

-          Filter theory may lack temporal validity. The use of dating apps and websites like Tinder mean that gating mechanisms such as age, ethnicity and social class are not filtered for, meaning that we can meet a wider range of people who we may not meet face-to-face. This suggests that filter theory is out-dated.


-          Filter theory may also lack temporal validity because it is becoming increasingly more common and acceptable to have cross-cultural relationships. This is due to globalisation and migration, so even without the use of dating apps, people are more likely to meet people of different origins in their everyday environments.


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Building Evaluations

-          The complementarity filter has more validity than other explanations for factors affecting attraction because it links to social exchange theories. It suggests that emotional needs are taken into consideration when starting and maintaining a relationship, giving a more detailed explanation of attraction rather than just physical attractiveness.


-          The similarity in partners may not be something that is selected for initially but something that develops as the relationships and communication develops. Also, complementarity may not be selected for but over time each partner finds their role in the relationship. Therefore, this is an issue of correlation, not causation which makes this theory problematic in explaining attraction.

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