Psychology - Relationships

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The formation of Romantic Relationships -1

The Reward/Needs satisfaction model, adopts the behaviourist approach. This theory relies on the idea of operant and classical conditioning forming the basis of romantic relationships, operant conditioning happens through an individual being directly reinforced when the other individual shows rewarding behaviour, such as friendliness, smiling, laughing etc. This is positive reinforcement for the individual, on the other hand if we meet someone who enables us to deviate from a negative emotional state; they are providing us with negative reinforcement, which increases our liking for that individual. Classical conditioning in romantic relationships happens through association, you may like an individual because you associate them with something pleasant, for example if you meet someone when you are in a good mood or doing something that makes you happy, you are likely to associate that person with a good mood, which makes you find him/her more attractive. May and Hamilton did a study on female students, who they asked to rate male strangers on attractiveness, they coincided this task with either pleasant or unpleasant music and found that those females who were listening to pleasant music tended to rate the male as better looking.

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The formation of Romantic Relationships -2

However there is evidence that suggests this theory is better suited to males than females because often males are extremely catered for and attended to by women, (Lott) this is due to women being socialised into doing tasks that meet the needs of men, for example cooking and cleaning. Therefore this is evidence to show that this theory is gender bias because it is often women who provide positive and negative reinforcement for men. 

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The formation of Romantic Relationships - 3

Further evidence to criticise the study comes from Hays who argues that reciprocity is also important in relationships, Hays found that actually people like making other people happy, they aren’t just in relationships in order to receive rewards and be provided with positive reinforcement, they also like to reward other people possibly by giving them rewards and feeling as though they may have provided positive reinforcement, but the rewards/needs satisfaction theory fails to attend to this idea. 

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The formation of Romantic Relationships - 4

Support for the rewards/needs satisfaction model comes from the importance of reward, a study from Griffit and Guay, the theory claims that we like individuals due to direct reinforcement. In their study participants were evaluated by an experimenter, they were asked at the end of a task to rate their experimenter on how much they liked them, the rating from participants was higher when the experimenter had positively evaluated, this shows positive reinforcement, therefore the evidence from this study supports the theory’s claim that direct reinforcement helps us to like an individual and form a relationship.

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The formation of Romantic Relationships - 5

Another theory of the formation of romantic relationships is through the matching hypothesis, for this there is two hypothesis’ hypothesis number one suggests that the more socially desirable a person is in terms of physical attractiveness, social standing, intelligence etc. the more desirable they would expect their partner to be. The second hypothesis is, couples who are matched (equally desirable) are more likely to have happy, enduring relationships than couples who are mismatched in terms of social desirability. Individuals looking for a partner will be influenced by what they want and what they think they can get – realistic choices, each individual is influenced by the chances of having their affection reciprocated. An individual’s initial attraction in the formative stages depends on available cues of their social desirability e.g. physical attractiveness is a major determiner as it is the most accessible way for each partner to rate a possible mate. An individual’s initial attraction therefore should be the comparison between the attractiveness level and the individuals own level of attraction.

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The formation of Romantic Relationships - 6

Research to support this study comes from Walster et al. (the dance study) University students were randomly matched with partners – success of matches was assessed through a questionnaire. Prior to the dance, participants believed the more attractive they were the more attractive their match should be however regardless of their own level of physical attractiveness, individuals reacted more positively to physically attractive dates, the physical attractive effect predominated over a matching effect or any other concern about rejection.

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The formation of Romantic Relationships - 7

Further support for this theory comes from the fact that it can be interpreted in so many ways, for example attractiveness can relate purely to physical appearance or it can include other socially desirable traits such as status, personality, money etc. this leads to much more complex matching, for example a young attractive fertile woman being matched with an older less physically attractive, but high status rich male, this broadens the scope for the matching hypothesis. However there is a criticism for the hypothesis, it appears to be applicable to males than females. The theory emphasises physical attractiveness, however this is usually more important to males than females. Research suggests that males can ‘make up for’ being less attractive with other desirable qualities such as social status and therefore this demonstrates a gender bias.

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The formation of Romantic Relationships - 8

 Further support for the matching hypothesis comes from the idea of a third party, because although a lot of matches are made through personal choice matching is often influenced by third parties such as friends/family/dating sites etc. Hatfield and Sprecher suggests that these third parties will consider compatibility and make more suitable matches e.g. enduring marriages in other cultures who have arranged marriages, this may be due to parents being better able to judge compatibility, supporting hypothesis 2 – couples who are equally desirable have longer lasting relationships.

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