Psychology - P.S.Y.A.3 Relationships

We all hate it.

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The reward/need satisfaction theory. Byrne and Clo

Direct reinforcement: People that smile and get us out of a sad state provide positive reinforcement. This increases chances of getting into a relationship with them.

Classical conditioning: Research has suggested that people may like other people because they associate them with something good. E.g. If they were present at a time when you were happy.


  • Hays - In relationships, giving is just as important as recieving. This model focuses purely on the latter.
  • Collectivist culture relationships do no need reinforcment. (Hill 1972)
  • Gender differences - women usually are more attentive to others needs rather than her own. However, seeing to others may be the reward in itself.
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The matching hypothesis.

Walster (1966)

  • The more socially desirable someone is, the more socially desirable they would expect their partner to be.
  • Couples who are matched (both partners are equally desirable) are more likely to have happy, enduring relationships than those that are mismatched.

People will make realistic choices about who they will choose to date, as they don't want to aim too high and get rejected.

Murstien (1972) - Physical attractiveness is the major factor of courtship relationships as it is a good way to rate the other as a possible mate.

The Dance Study - Uni underdrads matched randomly with someone. They were told they actually would be matched on criteria e.g. looks, personality etc.

results: the more attractive a date was, the better the reception for them was. Fear of rejection and of own attractiveness didn't come into it.

Evidence of real-life couples supports matching hypothesis (Murstein).

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Evaluation of Matching Hypothesis.

Complex matching - Used to be about social desirability, now just physical attractiveness. Also doesnt explain complex matches such as an old man with a young, hot blonde.

Gender differences - physical attractiveness matters more to men than it does to women. Ugly men can usually make up for it with other qualities.

Third party - Third party can sometimes be the one who decides who would make a good match e.g. in arranged marriages.

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Social exchange Theory

There are two parts to this theory: Comparison levels (below) & Equity theory.

Comparison levels. (Thiabult & Kelly): People will want to maximise their rewards and minimise their costs. When someone gives us a reward, people feel obliged to reciprocate. (hence - social exchange.) Thiabult & Kelly propose the importance of analysing our relationships:

  • Comparison level: A comparison of the cost and rewards of our current relationship, and what we have known in the past or what we expect should be the case in our relationships. If the current relationship favours positively, we will be more inclined to stick with it.
  • Comparison level for alternatives: Looking at possible benifits of being with someone else instead. If we deduce that we'd be better off in another relationship, we may be inclined to end current and run off with them.

IMPORTANT: Although many of the main assumptions of this theory have been supported by research, it has come into light that relationships aren't just about gaining rewards for ourselves, but about FAIRNESS. Enter Equity theory! --->

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Equity Theory - Walster et al. 1978.

This theory assumes that people strive to achieve fairness in a relationship and if people precieve unfairness, they will become dissatisfied.

  • Four principles: People try to maximise their rewards and minimise negative experiences in a relationship
  • The distribution of rewards is negotiated to ensure fairness. This may occur by trade-offs or priveledges.
  • Unfair relationships - e.g. someone puts loads into it and gets little back - produce satisfaction. The greater the percieved unfairness, the greater the dissatisfaction.
  • As long as the 'loser' feels there is a chance of restoring fairness and is motivated to do so, the relationship can be restored! :D

Evaluation of Social exchange theory:

  • Much of the research seems to lack ecological validity.
  • Clark and mills: identified two types of couple. Only one type seemed to 'take-score' which is predicted by this theory.
  • Gender differences: Men and women think differently about fairness.
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The Investment Model - Rusbult et. al. 1983

Commitment to a relationship is strengthened by the amount of satisfaction, investment and is weakened by the quality of alternatives.

Satisfaction: Similar to social exchange theory. If the rewards we gain are greater than costs we suffer, we will be satisfied in our relationship, if not - dissatisfaction.

Quality for alternatives: If someone feels that another relationship (or no relationship at all) may be more attractive than the relationship they are in now, they will be more inclined to leave theirs and go to another/none.

Investment: The level of investment - what someone has put into a relationship that will be lost if they leave it - contributes to the stability of a relationship. This could be time, energy, or shared possesions etc.

Rusbult tested her model: Hetero-sexual college couples filled in questionnaire over 7 month period with reference to these 3 things and also how committed they were to relationship. Results: High satisfaction and investment & low qual. for alter. made for more committed couples and the opposite was true also.

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Investment model: KEY RESEARCH!

Meta analysis - Le and Agnew (2003) RESEARCH TO SUPPORT! :D

  • 52 study meta analysis - over 11,000 participants.
  • Studies included from US, UK, Netherlands, Isreal and Taiwan.
  • Involved both Heterosexual and Homosexual participants.
  • The major assumptions of the Inv. model were correlated against relationship COMMITMENT.

Results: Across ALL studies, satisfaction, quality of alternatives and investment correlated highly with commitment to a relationship.


  • Meta analysis allows researchers to get a good idea of research into a given area
  • However, they rely on published studies. Only studies that supported their original hypothesis are usually published, this may effect meta-analysis results.
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Evaluation of Rusbult's Investment Model

  • Widely supported by research :) e.g. the Meta analysis by Le and Agnew. Woo hoo! xD
  • Abusive relationships: Rusbult applied the model to those in abusive relationships to find out why beaten women stayed rather than leaving when the abuse began. Results were as predicted: women more likely to stay when their alternatives were poor and investment was great. RESEARCH TO SUPPORT!

Tip: If the question comes up about the formation and maintenence of relationships, in my opnion, the Investment model is the best one to do. But of course, that's just my opinion. ;)

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Relationship Breakdown: Rollie and Duck

6 processes people may go through:

  • Breakdown: Relationship starts to breakdown
  • Intrapsychic: Social withdrawal and resentment of other half
  • Dyadic: Partners talk about issues and problems. Possible chance for reconciliation.
  • Social: Breaking-up is made public. Gain advice from friends and family.
  • Grave dressing: As a relationship dies, we need to know why and how it did.Ex-partners need to start moving on to life outside the relationship.
  • Ressurection: Coming out the other side, time to find someone else!
  • Boring Italians Dislike Spiders Growing Raddishes!
  • Evaluation:Traditional relationship breakdown models focus more on the grief etc. This model includes ressurrection which means that growth can occur in the individual.
  • Most research conducted on white, middle class straight people. Not fully representative of everyone. Also, there are differnet types of relationship that breakdown will obviously be different for e.g. marriage and 'just dating'.
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Evolutionary explanations of relationship breakdow

Males and females invest different amounts in a relationship.

  • Costs & emotional investment. Women want men with resources. This assumes men are willing to share these resources. Emotional investment from the man is an indicator of his willingness to share resources. As woman wants these resources, losing the emotional investment is more important to woman than man.
  • Men may exploit this when fear of relationship breakdown arises. They may try to keep sexual access to woman by suggesting more investment, e.g. marriage.
  • Infedelity - men have evolved to want a range of sexual "variety".¬_¬ Therefore, infidelity may allow for sexual variety outside of a relationship or be a quick way to end a relationship so that men can go "spread their seed".
  • Reputational damage: Those that do the breaking up are usually seen as mean and heartless by their peers. Breakup-ee may be percieved as the victim. This reputational damage may effect them finding a partner in the future - so breakup-ers may try to act more sympathetically to reduce said damage.
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Key Research - Periloux and Buss (2008)

US University heterosexual students. All had experienced at least one breakup. 80% had experienced a breakup as a rejector and 71% as a rejectee.

P's filled in a questionnaire about most recent breakup. Included questions about emotions at the time, the costs associated with the break up & any strategies used afterwards.

  • Results: Females more than males reported higher levels of cost associated with losing partners emotional commitment. SUPPORTS.
  • More males than females reported success at preventing breakup by increasing commitment. SUPPORTS.
  • Male rejectors more than female admitted to infidelity prior to breakup. SUPPORTS
  • Rejectors indicated a higher cost of being seen as cruel and heatless. SUPPORTS

Evaluation: Narrow age range of participants. Age may alter behaviour of breakdown.

Reliance of self-report data. Social desirability bias!!

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Evaluation of Evolutionary theory of relationship

Supported by research! (See previous card.) Also found is that women more than men are much more likely to use shopping as a coping strategy, regardless if they were rejector or rejectee.

Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behaviour is due to what we needed in our evolutionary past. However, Nichols (1985) argues that this ignores contemporary issues. Local customs and traditions may affect breakdown more than the adaptive problems faced by early humans.

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Abby Yarwood


Dayum, that took some time D:

Enjoy! (If that's actually possible). xD

Masud Shah


amazing, thanks



Relationships is my favourite topic in all of psychology I've studied so far. Kinda surprised that you hate it.

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