Psychology - Relationships

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Reward/Need Satisfaction Theory

(Byrne and Clore, 1970)

  • We are motivated to seek rewarding stimuli, avoid punishing stimuli

Rewards and Punishments

  • Rewarding stimuli produce +ve feelings and punishing stimule produce -ve
  • Operant conditioning -repeat the behaviour w/ desirable outcomes
  • Enter into relationships and its directly associated w/ +ve reinforcement

Attraction through association

  • Associate people with pleasurable events
  • Classical conditioning -neutral stimuli become +vely valued because of their association with a +ve event
  • Relationships where the +ve feelings outweigh the -ve feelings are more likely to succeed
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Reward/Need Satisfaction Theory Evaluation

Griffitt and Guay (1969)

  • Participants evaluated by experimenter, then had to rate experimenter
  • Rating highest when evaluated +vely on creative task

Cultural Bias: Lott (1994)

  • Women more focused on needs of others, rather than reinforcement recieving
  • Not a universal explanation of relationship formation, therefore culturally bias

Evolutionary Explanation: Aron et al (2005)

  • Brain area associated w/ love evolved in ancestors focus courtship on particular individ's
  • Love @ first sight, mammalian response that was inherited to speed up mating
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Similarity Theory

(Byrne, Clore and Smeaton, 1986)


  • Research shows that we are attracted to others who have similar personality traits than they are to those whohave dissimilar or complementary traits

Caspi and Herbener (1990)

  • Married couples with similar personalities tend to be happier than couples with less similar personalities


  • Process of 'attitude alignment' often occurs with partners modifying their attitudes so they become more similar
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Similarity Theory Evaluation

Rosenbaum (1986)

  • Dissimilarity repulsion hypothesis

Singh and Tang (1992) Drigotas (1993)

  • Tested in different cultures, 1st attracted because of similarity of attitudes -discovered more disimmilarities less attracted to each other

Yoshida (1972)

  • Only represents a narrow view of factors important in relationship formation

Speakman et al (2007)

  • People often choose partners with similar levels of body fat

Condon and Crano (1988)

  • People similar to us will be more likely to like us, lessen the chance of rejection
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Social Exchange Theory

(Thibaut and Kelley, 1959)

Profit and loss

  • Social behaviour is a series of exchanges, rewards - costs = outcome (profit/loss)
  • Rewards may be: being cared for, sex and companionship
  • Costs may be: effort, financial investment and time wasted
  • Commitment to a relationship is dependent on the profitability of the relationship

Comparison level

  • Comparison level -a standard against which all our relationships are judged
  • A product of our previous relationships and general views of what we expect
  • If potential profit of new relationship exceeds CL -it is seen as worthwhile

Comparison level for alternatives

  • Potential increase in rewards from a different partner, ending the current relationship
  • A new relationships can take the place of the old one
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Social Exchange Theory Evaluation

Profit and Loss: Rusbull and Martz (1995)

  • abusive relationships, a women might choose to remain in such a relationship

Simpson et al

  • Rate people on attractiveness level, those in relationships gave lower rates

Cultural Bias: Mohaddam (1998)

  • Economic theories only apply to Western relationships, only individuals in STR

Real World Application - Relationship Therapy

  • Gottman and Levenson (1992) - Successful marriages 5:1 +ve to -ve, Unsuccessful marriages 1:1 +ve to -ve
  • Integrated Behavioural Couples Therapy (IBCT) helps partners to break negative patterns
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Equity Theory

(Walster et al, 1978)

Inequity and distress

  • Messick and Cook (1938) People strive to achieve fairness in their relationships and feel distressed otherwise
  • People who give a great deal, but get little in return
  • People who recieve a great deal, but give little in return
  • The greater the percieved inequity, the greater dissatisfaction, the greater the distress

Ratio of inputs and outputs

  • A subjective assessment of the relative inputs and outputs of each partner
  • This in/outputs can be different amounts from each side
  • The relationship should balance out to reach equity, to make the relationship +ve
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Equity Theory Evaluation

Clark and Mills (1979) -disagreed relationships are based on economics

  • Exchange relationships, work colleagues
  • Communal relationships, lovers/friends. desire to respond to needs of the partner
  • Things will balance out in the long run

DeMaris (2007)

  • 1500 couples, US survey, greater women feel under-benefited raises the risk of divorce

Ragsdale and Brandau-Brown (2007)

  • equity is, an incomplete rendering of the way in which married people respect each other

Steil and Weltman (1991)

  • Wives tendency to seek less for themselves than comparable contributions impeded the achievement of equality at home
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Reasons For Breakdown

Duck (1999)

  • Lack of skills

They lack the interpersonal skills to make them mutually satisfying

Others percieve them as not being interested in relating so a relationship tends to break down before it really gets going.

  • Lack of stimulation

People look for rewards in their relationships one of which is 'stimulation'

People expect relationships to change and develop, when this doesnt happen its justification to end the relationship

  • Maintenance difficulties

If the maintenance difficulties become overwhelming the relationship breaks down

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Reasons For Breakdown Evaluation

Boekhout et al (1999)

  • Affairs by men in committed relationships, were for sexual reasons.
  • Affairs by women in committed relationships, were for emotional reasons

Rohlfling (1995)

  • 70%, one LDRR, 90%, one LDF

Holt and Stone (1988)

  • Little decrease in relationships satisfaction, if you reunite regularly

Gender Differences (Brehm and Kassin, 1996) (Akert, 1998)

  • Women upset by dissolution, men sexual withholding
  • Women stay friends, man cut their losses

Cina et al

  • CCET, higher marital quality after training compared to control group
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A Model Of Breakdown

(Rollie and Duck, 2006)

  • Breakdown -I can't stand this anymore
  • Intrapsychic Processes -I'd be justified to withdraw
  • Dyadic Processes -I mean it
  • Social Processes -Going public, I mean it
  • Grave-Dressing Processes -Tidying up memories, time to get a new life
  • Resurrection Processes -What I learned and how things will be different
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A Model Of Breakdown Evaluation

Tashiro and Frazier (2003)

  • Students reported that breaking up with their partner had given them new insights into themselves and a clearer idea about future partners

Implications for intervention

  • Intrapsychic stage, re-establishing liking for partner, re-evaluating their behaviour in a more positive light

Ethical Issues

  • Issues of vulnerability, privacy and confidentiality -if in an abusive relationship may fear recrimination
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The Nature Of Sexual Selection

Intrasexual selection:

  • Mate competition, males compete with each other for access to females

Intersexual selection:

  • Mate choice, willingness to mate with individuals who possess needed qualities

Short term mating preferences:

(Buss, 2007) Less elapse before sex, the larger number of women he can impregnate

(Buss and Schmitt, 1993) Males lower standards for sex, decrease attraction following sex

Long term mating preferences:

(Buss, 2003) 

Women -attracted to men with resources, protection, promise as parent and minimal costs. Men -signals of fertility

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The Nature Of Sexual Selection Evaluation

Logic of sexual selection :random mating costly

Penton-Voak et al (1999) :women choose different types of men at different stages of cycle

Kenrick et al  (1996) :males prefer younger women, easier to control, preferred as mates

Clarke and Hatfield (1989) :campus study f/m, date 50/50%, apartment 6/69%, sex 0/75%

Miller et al (2007) :tips higher of lap dancers in fertile point of menstrual cycle

Greiling and Buss (2000) gender bias :short-term mating may benefit females, mate switching (genetic diverse offspring)

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Parental Investment

Maternal Investment

  • Female investment greater than male investment -internal fertilisation (choosy females)
  • Human females invest more because infants born relatively helpless
  • (Symons, 1979) Costs of maternal investment makes random mating costly for females

Paternal Investment

  • (Goetz and Shackelford) Males invest less as costs of indiscriminate mating less for males
  • (Miller, 1998) Males must protect themselves from risk of cuckoldry therefore concerned about sexual infedility 
  • (Buss, 1995) Sexual jealousy evolved as solution to problem of possible cuckoldry
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Parental Investment Evaluation

Maternal Investment

  • Greater investment may lead to search for good genes through extra marital affairs (Baker and Bellis, 1990) 14% products of extramarital affairs (2700 UK women)
  • (Daly and Wilson, 1988) Cuckolding male partner carries risks

Paternal Investment

  • (Reid, 1997) Human males do invest -leads to decrease in infant mortality
  • In terms of investment, parental certainty may not be an issue for human males
  • (Buss et al, 1992) Evidence for sex differences in jealousy, sexual infedility vs emotional infedility
  • (Geher et al, 2007) Physiological measures suport limited male investment
  • Evolutionary explanations are reductionist
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Parent-Child Relationships

Shaver et al (1988) 3 Behavioural systems acquired in infancy

Attachment -Bowlby (1969) Blue print, from early relationships

Caregiving -Modelling the behaviour of the primary attachment figure

Sexuality -Learned in relation to early attachment, avoidant attachment -casual sex +ve

(Springer et al) If you have experienced physical abuse increased rates of depression, ander and anxiety.

Sexual abuse -psychological impairment in adult life

Both forms of abuse in childhood damage ability to trust people

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Parent-Child Relationships Evaluation

(Fraley, 1998) -meta analysis showed link between attachment type and later relationships

(Kirkpatrick and Hazan, 1994) -found a relationship break-ups were associated with a shirt from secure to insecure attachment

(Simpson at al, 2007) -emotional styles in adulthood can be traced back to infancy

(Berenson and Andersen, 2006) -the abused children have a difficult time developing adult relationships 

(Harlow, 1978) -rhesus monkeys who had inadequate parenting, inadequate behaviour in later life

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Childhood Friendships

Qualter and Munn (2005) 

  • Learn from experiences with other children, specific experiences become internalised
  • Develop own self values, determines approach to adult relationships

Nangle et al (2003)

  • Child friendships are training grounds
  • Close friendships promote feelings of trust, acceptance and a sense of being understood
  • Important in later romantic relationships
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Childhood Friendships Evaluation

Richard and Schneider (2005) suggests gender differences in childhood relationships

  • Girls are more intimate and caring
  • Boys are more competitive


Simpson et al -claim that despite their findings, this does not indicate that an individual's past unalterable determines the future course of their relationships

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Western And Non-Western Relationships

  • Western relationships more voluntary, non-western less so
  • Western cultues emphasise individual rights and freedom, non-western cultures emphasise importance of family or group in decisions about romantic relationships
  • Importance of love -members of western cultures less likely to marry in absence of love compared to members of non-western cultures
  • (Seepersad et al, 2008) 

-members of western cultures more likely to experience loneliness in absense of romantic relationships

  • (Moore and Leung, 2001) 

-found sex differences in attitudes to romantic love between Australian and Chinese students

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Western And Non-Western Relationships Evaluation

Non-voluntary relationships also characterised by love (Myers et al, 2005) although move away from arranged marriages in Chine associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction (Xiaohe and Whyte, 1990)

Non-voluntary relationships may produce more compatible partners in long term

Change from permanent to temporary relationships associated with increasing urbanisation rather than cultural differences

Love is an evolutionary adaptation, supported by the finding that most cultures have some evidence of romantic love (Janowiak and Fischer, 1992)

(Johnson and Holmes, 2009) -US romantic comdies represent culturally biased view of romantic relationships

Cultural bias in relationships research -need for indigenous psychology to overcome different meanings of measured used

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Really useful


Hi Becka, is this the entire unit? Like everything I need to know?

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